out and about :: designs of the year
Katie | March 31, 2014
The Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum is one of the highlights of my year. Now in its seventh year, it showcases all the nominations for the Design of Year awards and includes architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphic, product and transport design from around the world. I love seeing things there that I’ve seen at design fairs over the past year, and even better is seeing work I’ve spotted at graduate shows. What an amazing achievement to be included in this show within a year of graduating! I don’t envy the judging panel – it’s going to be very hard to pick and overall winner – but here are a few things that caught my eye.
The PET Lamps, which I saw for the first time at Rosanna Orlandi in Milan last April, by Alvaro Catalán de Ocón are made from the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles that are washed down the Amazon. Tim Parsons who nominated them said, “The PET Lamp Project will not stop all PET bottles being washed from Columbia’s rivers into the sea, but by producing a beautiful object from them Catalán de Ocón reminds us that we can control the fate of our resources.”
I interviewed Michael Anastassiades about his String Lights when he launched them in Milan last year. He said at the time, “I like the idea of a reductive process, I go through a process of subtraction until I capture the essence of what is left, what has to remain to be the essence of the piece, from a functional and aesthetic point of view.” The String Lights were nominated by Max Fraser, Sam Hecht, Emilia Terragni and Gareth Williams. Gareth Williams said, “String Lights’ chief joy comes from how Anastassiades has used the electric flex to inscribe the space, rather like the minimalist sculptural installations of Fred Sandback.”
I loved the Plume Retractable Mudguard, designed by Patrick Laing and Dan McMahon and nominated by Vicky Richardson – a real ‘how has no-one thought of that before?’ idea, no doubt inspired by those rulers that snapped into bracelets that any child of the 80s will remember! Vicky Richardson said, “Mudguards spoil the clean, elemental lines of a bike – yet they are essential to avoid a muddy back. Plume solves this dilemma in a particularly ingenious and elegant way.”
Clever Caps by Brazilian designers Claudio Patrick Vollers and Henry Suzuki function both as bottle tops and building bricks for children, removing the need to throw them away when you’ve finished your drink. Nominator Adelia Borges said, “What I like about this product is its ability to reduce garbage, while also allowing users to be the makers of their own projects. It’s a simple yet smart innovation.” Clever Caps are in production, the bottled drinks industry just needs to adopt them.
The Whitney is one of my favourite museums in New York, so I was excited to see this rebrand, all based around the letter W. And it’s by one of my favourite graphic design studios, Experimental Jetset. The design was inspired by something the Chief Curator, Donna de Salvo said, that “it would be much easier to present the history of art as a simplistic line, but that’s not the Whitney.” The W becomes a zig zag line and a metaphor for a more complex way to present art history. Nominated by Micha Weidman.
The New Crematorium at the Woodland Cemetery is an unusual entrant for Design of the Year. It was designed by Johan Celsing for the Stockholm Cemetery Committee and nominated by Noemi Blager who said, “You feel as if death is going back to nature, a continuation of the life cycle rather than the end.” It is designed to have as little impact as possible, and blend in with the surrounding woodland.
Tracey Neuls designed the Geek to be a casual shoe, dress shoe and sports shoe all in one. It features a reflector in the heel, a hardwearing one-piece rubber sole and leather that is dyed all the way through so it stays black even when it’s scuffed. Genius! Vicky Richardson, who nominated The Geek, said, “A simple but brilliant idea that transformed a smart and beautiful shoe into one that’s practical and comfortable for cyclists.” To be honest, she had me at “geek”!
The ABC Syringe by Dr David Swann changes colour from clear to red when it’s taken out of its packaging and exposed to the air, with the aim of reducing the reuse of needles. The unsafe use of syringes accounts for 1.3million deaths a year.
As an independent magazine fan, it was very exciting to see The Gourmand nominated in the graphic design category. Simon Esterson who nominated it said, “A tactile object, mixing matt with gloss paper, black and white and strong colour. It moves, like a good meal with friends, from one mood to another.”
The Bodleian Library chair by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby was previewed at the London Design Festival having won a competition for a chair to follow in the footsteps of the 1756 Curator’s Chair, one of the earliest custom-made chairs for the Bodleian Libraries, reproductions of which are still made today. Lynda Relph-Knight who nominated it, said, “A great example of collaboration between astute designers and a manufacturer with high production values to create a design that will endure.”
I saw Mauricio Affonso‘s Luffa Lab at the RCA graduate show last year – it explored the potential of the fibres extracted from the luffa plant and discovered new applications for the first time, such as a low cost splint and acoustic tiles (which incidentally, are blue because they are also used to soak up chemicals from the denim dying process that would otherwise end up in the sea). Mauricio’s intention was to find new uses for this plant for the communities that are built around it. Nominator Jocelyn Bailey said, “It’s amazing to me that no-one had previously discovered all this. The result should make us think twice about which other familiar materials deserve a second look.”
Castledown Primary School commissioned a new typeface, designed by Anthony Sheret, Edd Harrington and Rupert Dunk, that was easier for children with dyslexia to read. The designers worked with the children to develop the font, which is now used across all school correspondence. A font to help children to read has also been developed.
And finally, I loved the Lego Calendar design by Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, Duncan Fitzsimons, Simon Emberton for their own studio. The colour coded bricks representing blocks of time spent on different projects. The calendar is made entirely of Lego, but when you take a photo of it with a smartphone, it synchronises with your online calendar. Clara told me that one of the benefits is that when you’re rearranging things you can’t simply delete the Lego bricks, so having decided how long a project will take, you have to make time for it.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
- out and about :: in the making (pt 2)
- out and about :: hello, my name is paul smith
- out and about :: greenhouse, stockholm furniture fair
- out and about :: in the making (pt 1)