It could be a writing utensil or a mode of transportation, or maybe some camping equipment or a bicycle accessory. It could be virtually anything, really, as long as it enhances the outdoor experience with a quality, sustainable design that shows concern for the environment.
Those are the characteristics that seven judges will be looking for in the "Q=E International Design Competition" sponsored by the Patagonia outdoor clothing and accessory manufacturing company of Ventura.
"The thinking behind the competition was, 'What, if anything, could we do to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company?' " said Patagonia legal consul Geoff Cline, who is spearheading the Q=E (quality equals environmentalism) contest.
"We were interested in figuring out some way to celebrate the creativity and innovation that put Patagonia on the map," he said. "We decided on a call for entries that would embody our design values, simple beauty and reliability--expressly including things that have become the most important to Patagonia, which is environmental concerns."
The contest, which has an entry deadline of Aug. 3, is open to anyone: industrial and fashion designers, outdoor enthusiasts, engineers, students and others interested in design and the environment. Cline expects the designs themselves to be as varied as the designers.
"We wanted to keep the call as broad as possible so the range of entries could be anything from garments to toilets, roofing systems, tents, energy systems, a pencil," he said. "Anything that could be imagined."
Contest judges will include Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard; Paola Antonelli, associate curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Kenji Ekuan, chairman of the GK Design Group of Tokyo; Dorothy Twining Globus, museum director at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York; Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado; Paul MacCready, founder of Monrovia-based AeroVironments; and architect William McDonough, founder of William McDonough and Partners and dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture.
"With this jury we have, having a lot of complexity is not [necessarily] going to be impressive," Cline said. "What is going to be impressive are things that are elegant, appropriate and maybe right under your face that you don't think of it. In some ways, the most simple but most powerful idea would probably be the most valid."
Early response to the competition has been good, Cline said, with e-mail correspondence coming in from throughout the world. The contest has been incorporated into curricula in design schools in Europe and throughout the United States.
The first-place finisher will receive $15,000, with second place worth $10,000. Patagonia gift certificates, beginning at a $5,000 value, will be awarded to other top finishers. For more information, call (888) 344-4567, Ext. 4809 or check Patagonia's Web site at http://www.patagonia.com.