From: Bruce Sterling []
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2000 7:50 PM
To: Viridian List
Subject: Viridian Note 00135: Viridian Meter Competition

Key concepts: cash prizes, Sustainability Institute,
Balaton Group, energy meters, judges, feature articles, industrial production, Viridian Actual Products

Attention Conservation Notice: There's money involved! And attention! And lots of work! They're not kidding! This is for real!

Entries in the "Dead Mike" Design contest:

Viridian contests archive:

This contest expires very soon: February 15, 02000.


The Sustainability Institute

in cooperation with

The International Network of Resource Information Centers (aka the Balaton Group)



A Total of $8000 USD in Prizes

will be awarded for excellence in the design of a functional and aesthetically dazzling


The Viridian Electricity Meter is a household energy consumption meter that resides in a prominent place inside the home. Its purpose is to provide accurate, compelling, and artistically fascinating feedback to homeowners about their current energy use. Users are rewarded aesthetically for reducing energy consumption (and for switching their energy source to a renewable one). In other words, the more sustainable their energy consumption, the more beautiful and fascinating the meters' display.

Viridian Meters should be technically accurate, artistically creative, adaptable to many different cultural contexts, marketable, and above all, very, very cool. Commercially produced Viridian Meters should be capable of generating consumer desire. The ideal Viridian Electricity Meter would be so attractive, people would simply want one, regardless of whether they personally cared very much about saving energy.

Design specifications and submission instructions (below) should be followed carefully. Background on the Viridian design movement follows.

Background on The Viridian Movement and the Viridian Meter

The term viridian == a word referring to a bluish shade of green -- was adopted by U.S. science fiction author Bruce Sterling as the name for the design movement he initiated in 1999, and launched formally with a Manifesto on January 3, 2000. The intent of the Viridian Movement is to stimulate the reinvention of everyday products and technologies in the industrial world, so that they are both environmentally benign and aesthetically superior to products now in use. (To read more about the Viridian Movement, visit its website:

The concept of the Viridian Electricity Meter originated with Stefan Jones, a member of the Viridian Curia (an international core group of designers and writers, linked by internet). The Meter began, like most Viridian ideas, as an imaginary product, for which Bruce Sterling wrote the following imaginary advertisement:

"One of the most offensive artifacts of the twentieth century is the standard household energy meter. This ugly gizmo clings like a barnacle to the outside of your home, readable only by functionaries. Clumsily painted in battleship gray, this network spy device features creepy, illegible little clock-dials, under an ungainly glass dome. Look a bit closer, and this user- hostile interface deliberately insults you, with a hateful anti- theft warning, and a foul little lockbox.

"This crass device is designed to leave you in stellar ignorance of your own energy usage. It publicly brands you as a helpless peon, a technically-illiterate source of cash for remote, uncaring utility lords.

"But today, thanks to the Viridian Electrical Meter, the tables are turned. The Viridian Meter is not some utility spy device, but a user-owned art object!"

The purpose of the competition is to bring forward as many different design ideas for the Viridian Meter as possible, to increase the likelihood of discovering one or more ideas with the potential for being manufactured and distributed in the mass market.

The competition sponsors therefore encourage maximum design creativity and diversity in reinterpreting the Viridian Meter concept, together with technical accuracy, functional utility, and consumer ease-of-use.

Procedure for Submissions

The Competition will proceed in two rounds. In the first round, entering teams or individuals will submit a one- page written description of their proposed Meter, a one- page description of the individual or team submitting the design, and (optional) a one-page artist's conceptual drawing or technical schematic drawing of the proposed Meter. The written description should be clear, colorful, and compelling, while also conveying the following key facts:

O=c=O Visual appearance of the meter O=c=O Manner in which information on energy consumption will be displayed
O=c=O Basic technical description of how energy usage will be monitored
O=c=O Intended position within a residence (e.g., wall- mounted, table-top, etc.)
O=c=O Materials and components to be used in construction

Participants should also indicate whether they are able to construct a working prototype of their design.

In the second round, up to fifteen Finalists will be invited to submit a more detailed schematic proposal and, if feasible, a working prototype.

The competition judges will then select anywhere from one to eight winners, depending on the quality of the submissions, and divide the prize money as they see fit.

Winners will have their work featured on a competition web site, and their designs may be introduced to potential manufacturers and retailers. Features articles about the competition will be written and submitted to leading art and design magazines. Entrants will retain all rights to their designs, but Finalists will sign agreements allowing the Sustainability Institute to reproduce images of their submissions.

Submissions on paper should be sent to:

Sustainability Institute/Viridian Competition PO Box 174
Hartland Four Corners, VT 05049 USA

Email Submissions should be sent to:

If your submission is also available on a web site, please include the URL.

For additional information, please write to the address above or send an email to

Competition Timeline

Deadline for initial submissions: May 31, 2000

Announcement and notification to Finalists: June 15, 2000

Deadline for Finalist submissions: August 15, 2000

Announcement of winners and prizes awarded: October 1, 2000

Note: All submission documents become the property of
Sustainability Institute and will not be returned. Please retain copies for your own records.

First International Viridian Design Competition Sustainability Institute/Viridian Competition PO Box 174
Hartland Four Corners, VT 05049 USA

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