For more than 60 years the prestigious and internationally known iF design award has been given out. In this year’s edition, Carl Zeiss submitted three camera lenses and two cine lenses for the category ‘product design’ — and with success. From the more than 3,000 products which were submitted, only 981 received a prize. A total of five ZEISS lenses were presented with the world’s leading international product design prize on February 22, 2013 at a ceremony in the Munich BMW World.
The winners are the cine lenses Compact Zoom CZ.2 70-200/T2.9 and the ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphic MA 50/T1.9 which was developed with camera maker ARRI. Three new camera lenses for single-lens reflex (SLR) and mirrorless system cameras (CSC) also captured awards.
One of the lenses even received the coveted iF gold award for particularly exceptional design, which was presented to only 50 of the 981 prizewinners. It concerns a focal length in the new product family of autofocus lenses for mirrorless system cameras (CSC), which should be available on the market starting summer 2013. This lens will help cameras such as the Sony NEX and the Fujifilm X perform at their best.
In conferring the iF product design awards, the jury has paid tribute to an entirely new design approach at Carl Zeiss Lenses. Martin Dominicus, Head of Marketing of the Carl Zeiss Camera Lens Division, says: “For the first time, we have established a design language that aims to convey the strengths and the identity of our lenses already through their appearance, how they feel to the human touch, and the impression they create." The new product design language, which will be applied to all future lenses, was created in collaboration with the Stuttgart design studio Phoenix Design. "While ZEISS lenses have until now mainly been known for their technical precision, excellent image performance and ergonomics, our lenses will now also meet the highest aesthetic standards of our customers by becoming design objects in and of themselves," explains Dominicus. “Not only are functional aspects such as convenient handling and operation important, but also the effect that is communicated through high-quality design."
The new design language was developed in an extensive two-year process that involved in-depth interviews with experienced users and business partners. The result is a new corporate design guide that serves as the basis for representing the new design language of ZEISS lenses. Tom Schönherr, co-founder and partner of Phoenix Design, explains: “From the brand values of ZEISS lenses we derived product characteristics for the areas usability, perception and technology which should be mirrored in the product design. Attributes such as logical, reliable and user-oriented are reflected in the new concept for labeling and manageability."
The guide describes the characteristics that will distinguish the ZEISS brand in all future products, ensuring recognition across all product lines. Brand recognition will be reflected in such form elements as contour lines, the look and feel of the operating areas, and the properties of the surface. New features include an optimized focus ring, a smooth coating, and a stray light lens hood which presents itself as an optical component part of the camera lens. The lens hood's funnel-shaped form which faces upward signals the high speed and performance which ZEISS lenses are known for, among others.
But there are also some novelties in the area of typography. In order to create uniformity and optimal recognition in the future, the names and scales on the lenses will all be in the standardized typeface DIN 1451. This typeface is not only known for its clear, classic and modern appearance; it has been used for German road and rail signage since 1936. The advantages are obvious: key lens parameters such as f-number and focal length will be quickly discernible and easily legible — even in poor lighting conditions. These are things that photographers and cinematographers value highly because they make it easier to handle a lens.
“The five iF product design awards confirm that, together with Carl Zeiss, we have succeeded in creating a truly distinctive design. Especially when it comes to a lens, this is a big challenge because the scope to influence the design is very limited. Nevertheless, we have come up with a new and modern design language consisting of few but characteristic elements that we are sure will gain acceptance with users,” says product designer Schönherr.
Dominicus adds: "For us it was important that the appearance of ZEISS lenses be just as unique as their technical characteristics. We have developed a concept that enables Carl Zeiss to achieve its premium claim more consistently in the future: uncompromising technology with outstanding product design."
ZEISS lenses have been around for more than 120 years, but this is the first time that Carl Zeiss is focusing specifically on the aesthetics of the finished product already during the development of the lens. The newly defined design attributes will shape the look of ZEISS lenses and make them unmistakable for the next few decades and beyond.