PRODUCT DESIGN CONTESTS invariably lend themselves to superlatives. Winning designs are inevitably the most beautiful, elegant, disruptive, and accessible products yet created. But sometimes what’s most important in recognizing excellent design is acknowledging—and celebrating—what it is not: fussy, overly tech-reliant, poorly explained, or most of all, needlessly expensive. That became quickly apparent this year, during the judging of Inc.’s third annual Iconic Design Awards.

“As an art project, this is great. But as a go-to-market product, it doesn’t feel ready. It’s not scalable,” as Vivian Rosenthal, the founder of tech design firm Snaps and a co-founder of Google’s 30 Weeks design incubator, says of one beautifully impractical finalist.

Fortunately, she and her fellow members of our judging panel (below) found much that does make sense from the entrepreneurial designers and makers whose products

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