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May 2017: A trip to China, a mayor, a catwalk and rain.

This month involved a trip to China, a Mayor, TV cameras and rain.

This month was the Grand Final of the Design Intelligence Awards we mentioned in April. A coming together of 22 finalists from all over the world… which included Version 22 and Nimble.

Starting in early May I (Simon) flew out via Hong Kong to Hangzhou, the city where everything was to happen. Then, over the course of three very long days, the award finals took place.

The schedule was like this:

May 5th (Day 0) – Sleep off jet lag, then explore (I planned this part).

May 6th (Day 1) – Photographs, media interviews and rehearsals.

May 7th (Day 2) – Grand final event where finalists pitched to a panel of judges and an audience of around 300 people. The top 10 finalists were to be announced today too.

May 8th (Day 3) – The awards ceremony where we would find out which two ideas out of the top 10 would receive the grand prize. (Yes, there were two top place prizes up for grabs!)

All three days were held at The Chinese Academy of Art, which must have one of the greenest university campuses ever…

 The Chinese Academy of Art (CAA) Campus

Day 1

I arrived nice and early at the Academy campus on the 6th and instantly knew I was in the right place:

There were signs like this all over campus

After a quick photography session where all the finalists had their portraits taken, we were then interviewed on camera one by one before being allowed off to explore for a few hours. I opted for lunch across the road:

Later on we returned to campus to have a wander around the DIA Exhibition, an exhibition of the top 300 or so entries into the competition. This was held in a very nice, modern -looking building on campus.

The venue for the DIA Exhibition

The DIA Exhibition itself

After a good browse of all of the amazing ideas on display, it was time for a gruelling 4-5 hour rehearsal of the grand final before we all headed home to our hotels to prep for the main event the following day.

Day 2

I was up and out of the hotel by 5am on this day as we had breakfast and rehearsals etc. prior to the event starting later in the morning. I took the opportunity to find a quiet spot to rehearse my presentation out loud and calm my nerves.

Then we headed inside to take another look at where we’d all be presenting.

The stage was like three catwalks stacked one on top of the other!

Those black, building-sized panels behind the stage aren’t walls… they’re screens!

Before too long, it was time for the finals to start…

Members of the public, invited guests and judges started to filter in and the room began to get very full. Me and the other finalists waited anxiously back stage until the point we were introduced.

[Top] the venue filling up, [Bottom] me and the other finalists backstage

Each of the finalists was introduced by the presenters to the audience and took to the stage before heading to their designated seat (this was one of the things we had rehearsed the night before so it went off without a hitch).

The last finalists taking to the stage after being introduced

Once we were all introduced and sat down it was time for the finalists to present.

I was number 6 out of 22. This meant I wasn’t the first, which I would’ve preferred (you get it out of the way quicker that way) but I also wouldn’t have to nervously wait for what seemed like forever as finalists 21 or 22 would have to do.

The finalists before me all pitched well and I knew I was up against some tough competition, I’d have to give it my all to be in with a chance of one of the top prizes!

In what seemed like no time at all pitch number 5 was finished and my number was up. I was introduced on stage.

After a quick chat with the presenter my pitch began and I was away.

Being interviewed by the presenter

Pitching Nimble to the audience

Honestly, I don’t remember much about my 3 minute pitch or the questions from the judges that came afterwards. It went by in a blur! But I left the stage feeling in my gut that I’d given it my best shot.

I waved to the audience and headed back to my seat.

It was over, I’d done it.

There was nothing to do now but wait…

After finalist number 22 had finished their pitch, the judges deliberated and a professional audience of 30 members of the public also voted on their favourites. It was a tense few minutes while the votes were counted up.

Next came the first of two announcements, who had made the top 10, and thus was guaranteed a DIA Excellence Award (the second level prize below DIA Gold).


Nimble made the cut! It all happened so fast I hadn’t realised Nimble had made the top 10 until one of the crew ushered me on stage with some of the other stunned top 10 finalists.

Next was a stage of the competition none of us could have prepared for, a Q&A panel with members of the professional audience and with the judges, followed by a 60 second improvised pitch as to why our idea should be awarded Gold.

Me on stage with the other Top 10 finalists for a Q&A

Up on stage I was sat amongst some incredible designers, creators and business owners and felt privileged to have made it this far. I had been over the moon simply to have made the top 22 and been invited to China!

The audience and judges asked all of us some tough questions but I think we held our own pretty well.

Now though, it was down to the judges and the judges alone to pick the two winners of the Gold Award, and we’d have to wait until the following day to find out who this was!

Day 3

Day 3 was the Grand Final Ceremony where the top 2 designs out of the top 10 chosen the day before would be announced.

The thing was, this didn’t kick off until the evening, so I decided to do a little exploring around Hangzhou beforehand.

Hangzhou is famous for the Scenic West Lake, a glorious body of water nestled between city and forest. I decided to walk around it before heading off to the ceremony.

The thing was, the walk was 12km and it was raining…

“Nevermind,” I thought, “How wet could it be?”

The answer; very wet indeed, in fact it didn’t stop raining the whole time I was out, but it was worth braving the elements for!

A lovely long and rainy walk around West Lake before the evening’s Grand Ceremony

The evening of Day 3 was here before I knew it, and all of the finalists converged on the Chinese Academy of Art one last time to find out who would be crowned winners.

Posing against the huge DIA Grand Ceremony backdrop before going in

The entrance into the venue reminded me somewhat of the entrance into a stadium…

As the day before we all took to our seats, this time at the side of the stage, and watched as the room filled once again.

A full house!

This time though there were guests such as the Mayor of Hangzhou and several government officials in the audience!

After a few guest speakers had taken the stage it was time for the bit we’d all be eagerly (albeit nervously) waiting for.

I could feel my heart pumping in my chest, but at the same time I was fighting not to get my hopes up too much. The competition I was up against was incredible and many, if not all of the other top 10 finalists deserved the DIA Gold in my opinion.

The person chosen to announce the DIA Gold Winners walked up to the main stage, was handed a white envelope by a member of the crew and he opened it up to read the names aloud…

Unfortunately, Nimble wasn’t one of the DIA Gold winners in that envelope that night.

Sad times.

To be honest though, getting into the top 10 out of 2,700+ entries was one of Nimble’s biggest achievements to date so I was over the moon to be awarded DIA Excellence!

Waiting to receive Nimble’s trophy and certificate


Me and 3 other recipients of 8 DIA Excellence awards posing for the camera

Me looking chuffed to bits with our trophy and certificate for Nimble!

So… What Else Happened in May?

So that was it was the Design Intelligence Awards in China and the end of the first week of May. What else happened this month?

Well, to be honest everything else we did this month just pales in comparison to Nimble’s success in China! So I’ll just sum things up for you quickly before we wrap things up.

  • Nimble is gaining popularity in Japan and has been featured on Japanese TV!
  • We’ve started the process of ordering more Nimbles from our manufacturing partners to help us meet growing demand.
  • We’ve been working on the designs of some future product ideas. It’s early stage stuff at the moment though.

That’s May for you!

Here’s hoping for a great June for everyone.