How can the war in Ukraine be depicted visually and how do objects sound? For their answers to these questions, Yvonne Lober and Julius Walsch were honoured with the first and third prizes of the Cologne Design Award 2023, which is endowed with a total of 20,000 Euros. In addition, Sanja Zündorf and Matthias Grund each received the special KölnBusiness prize. All four studied at the Cologne International School of Design at TH Köln and were honoured for their final theses.

In her bachelor’s thesis “De/Construct/War”, which was awarded first prize and prize money of 4,000 euros, Yvonne Lober visualises the war in Ukraine using publicly available data such as satellite images, drone footage and images from social media. Based on these materials, patterns can be visualised and developments can be shown or traced. In this way, Lober aims to provide insights into the complexity and digital complexity of geopolitical issues and contribute to reflection on how power is negotiated and shaped in space. “By connecting the locations of bombardments at the beginning of the war to form a line and comparing this with the later course of the front, the strategic intention of the Russian army is revealed from the very beginning,” was the jury’s verdict.

What does a stone or a pineapple sound like? Julius Walsch answers this question in his bachelor’s thesis “Klang-Körper”. To this end, he developed an experimental synthesiser that scans any object, converts its surface into acoustic waveforms and thus generates so-called sound bodies. These acoustic images of an object are linked to the original object and can be clearly assigned like a fingerprint. “The resulting acoustic imprint expands the shape and feel of a three-dimensional object to include the dimension of time and opens up new media possibilities – also for creatives from other disciplines,” said the jury, awarding Walsch one of the two third places, each worth 2,000 euros.

Special prizes for innovative sex toys and research into AI-generated images

This year, KölnBusiness Wirtschaftsförderung awarded two special prizes of 3,000 euros each, both of which were won by KISD students. In her Master’s thesis “entzück dich selbst”, Sanja Zündorf analysed female masturbation. Her findings: the sex toy industry cements the stereotype that women are dependent on a penis substitute for masturbation and produces pink, phallus-shaped toys. The aim of her work was therefore to design an object that normalises other masturbation practices. “The result is textile ‘self-love objects’ with ribbed surfaces and various pressure points that correspond to the desires of FLINTA and vulva wearers and thus make an important contribution to more realistic female masturbation,” says the jury.

AI-generated images represent a radical change in image production. In his master’s thesis “Other Images”, Matthias Grund explores this new medium using a collection of scientific essays, an academic curriculum and artistic-research works. The work is conceived as a dossier that enables different levels of engagement with generative AI. “It quickly becomes clear that an image generated by AI is not so much an image as the idea of an image, thus creating an entirely new category. An important realisation that helps to deal responsibly with the new technology,” said the jury in its verdict.

Second place, endowed with 4,000 euros, went to Leah-Lilith Heeren from the Academy of Media Arts for her diploma thesis “In my hands”. The bachelor thesis “sitz_mal!”, written by Karlotta Leonie Paul at the ecosign – Academy of Design, came second and third.
An audience prize was also awarded, which was voted for by the audience present on the evening after the award ceremony. The prize was won by Larissa Zielbauer from KISD for her bachelor’s thesis “Das Schamäleon” / Kamishibai and picture book “Kritzelknäuel. Frida is ashamed. Not.”

About the Design Award

The Cologne Design Award is presented annually to graduates of design degree programmes at Cologne’s universities. This year, the following universities nominated their graduation projects for the award: ecosign – Academy of Design, Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, ifs – International Film School, KHM – Academy of Media Arts, KISD – Cologne International School of Design, Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln (RFH).
All nominated graduation works can be seen at the Museum of Applied Arts Cologne (MAKK) until 3 December 2023, admission is free.


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