Last year, London design studio BarberOsgerby 
received the Design of the Year 2012 award for its 
London 2012 Olympic torch design. Now in its sixth year, and organised by London’s Design Museum, the Designs of the Year program recognises international talent from the last 12 months in seven categories – 
architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, 
product and transport.

The 90 nominations showcase just how diverse, original, innovative and exciting design is today, with such such a variety of projects that include the architectural feat that is the Shard in London to a chair made from sea waste and from ‘anti-design’ cigarette packaging to a 3D-printed exoskeleton.
With such an immense list, we have profiled just a few of the stand-out designs in the categories of digital, furniture, graphics, product and transport.

An interesting lighting installation within the digital category is Candles in the Wind, designed by 
Moritz Waldemeyer, a German-born, London-based 
designer, for Ingo Maurer, a German industrial designer specialising in lighting design. Each of the 100 lights in the installation consists of a black rectangular circuit board with 256 tiny LEDs at one end. These LEDs, which emit a warm light, are programmed to resemble a candle flame flickering in the wind.

This digital display was introduced to the public during Ingo Maurer’s 2012 Milan show, where it fascinated and mesmerised visitors, as only from up close can you tell that its actually not a candle at all. Sophisticated programming of the LEDs make the flames look extremely realistic.
Within the furniture category, there are a number of interesting designs, but one that immediately catches the eye is the Sea Chair, which is made entirely from plastic recovered from the sea. The Sea Chair project was created by the London-based design practice Studio Swine in collaboration with London designer 
Kieren Jones as a response to the issue of growing levels of waste plastic in our oceans.

“We were shocked when we learnt about the Great Pacific Garbage patch, a mass of marine litter in the Pacific Ocean that is almost twice the size of Texas,” comments Jones. “We felt that despite the gravity 
of the issue, its profile was relatively low and we were keen to find a new and innovative solution to tackle this problem.”

What they came up with is a means by which fisherman can produce their own chairs from this plastic sea waste. They designed simple moulds and tools, including a bespoke machine called a Sea Press that can be used onboard ships to melt the waste into chairs. Although it’s still a concept, Studio Swine and Jones envisage a day where ‘floating factories’ of varying scales can be adapted to produce Sea Chairs for sale, providing fishermen with a sideline income.

From a chair made completely of waste to a table with a price tag of over £100 000, the Liquid Glacial Table was designed by Zaha Hadid. Hadid, with her London-based practice, is a world-renowned Iraqi-British architect, having received countless awards over the years and was even made a Dame last year by the Queen. She, in fact, had two nominations in the 
Designs of the Year awards – the other is in the archi-tecture category for the Galaxy Soho building in Beijing.

The Liquid Glacial Table was originally commissioned 
by the David Gill Gallery, located in London’s exclusive Mayfair, in March 2012. The four-part dining table resembles the illusion of moving and melting ice. Made from acrylic resin, although the surface is flat, it looks wavy and rippled and the legs, although solid, look as though water is swirling down them from the surface.

Within the graphics category, one of the stand-out nominations is the Australian Cigarette Packaging, which has rather ironically been nominated precisely because its design is so unappealing. The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 requires that all tobacco products be sold in plain packaging by 1 December 2012. This legislation is part of the Australian Government’s reforms to reduce smoking and its harmful effects. According to the BBC, with 15 000 smokers dying each year at a cost of AU$30 billion, the Australian Government felt it had a duty to act and aims to reduce smoking to less than 10% of the population by 2018.

Commissioned by the Australian Government Department for Health and Ageing, the new plain packaging means that all tobacco company logos and colours are banned. Instead, cigarettes are now packaged in bland olive-green unbranded boxes covered with hard hitting anti-smoking messages and imagery with the brand name printed in small plain text near the bottom. The hope is that this ‘anti-designed’ pack 
will put smokers off and will prevent others from taking up the habit.

However, this wasn’t the only packaging project nominated in Designs of the Year 2013 that is aiming to save lives – the ColaLife project, nominated in the product category, is using Coca-Cola’s well-established 
distribution channels to get medication to some of 
the poorest parts of the world. What started in 2008 as an online ‘movement’ spearheaded by Simon Berry has now become an independent UK charity with a huge following.

Berry came up with the ColaLife idea while working 
in Zambia as a technical cooperation officer for the British aid program in 1988. He realised two facts: first, no matter where you are in Africa, even in the remotest corners of Zambia, you can always buy Coca Cola; and, second, in these same places, one in seven children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, such as dehydration from diarrhoea. He began to wonder whether Coca-Cola’s unrivalled local distribution networks could be harnessed to deliver simple but potentially life-saving medicines to these hard-to-reach places.

Having seen Berry give a presentation about his 
ColaLife project at an awards ceremony, designers from London-based design consultancy pi global offered to help him design the packaging. They were later briefed to create a robust container to carry simple medications that could be placed within the unused spaces in crates of Coca-Cola.

The structural team at pi global created a wedge-shaped vacuum-formed container called the AidPod or Kit Yamoy. The unique features include an opening in the lid where an instruction leaflet can be slotted in and then how the packaging can double-up as a measuring jug to accurately measure the medication. 

“Simon gave us this amazing concept for getting medication to rural areas, piggy-backing on what they call ‘the last mile’ of the Coca-Cola distribution system. Our role was to take this idea and make it real,” explains Chris Griffin, chief operating officer at pi global.

“It wasn’t about making a lovely looking piece of packaging to attract consumers, but, instead, a functional and sturdy container to deliver this medication safely. The AidPod is a simple, well-constructed rPET container that will help parents in developing countries protect their families from easily treated diseases. 
ColaLife has been a truly exciting project for us to 
work on and we can’t wait to see the fantastic results 
it will deliver in the future.”

Another project within the product category that demonstrates how life-changing good design can be 
is the 3D printed exoskeleton ‘Magic Arms’. Created by the Department of Orthopaedics at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware in the US, the WREX (Wilmington Robotic Exoskelton) is an assistive device made of hinged metal bars and resistance bands. It helps children who were born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a non-progressive condition that causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles, to lift and move their arms.

Attached to a wheelchair, WREX can be used by 
children as young as six, but when Megan Lavelle 
saw the device being demonstrated at a conference, she wondered whether it could be used on her two-year-old daughter and AMC patient, Emma. Lavelle approached the research engineer from Nemours, Whitney Sample, who had given the presentation and posed the question to him.

Back in Nemours’ paediatric engineering research lab, Sample started working on a scaled-down version of the WREX for Emma. As the parts were too small and detailed to fabricate on the lab’s CNC system, they decided to try and print bespoke prototypes in ABS plastic using their 3D printer. It was a success and they were able to attach the right sized WREX to a little plastic vest for Emma.

Her new custom 3D-printed WREX is durable enough to wear everyday at home, at preschool and during 
occupational therapy. “When Emma started to express herself, we would go upstairs [to Sample’s workshop] and we would say, ‘Emma, you know we’re going to put the WREX on’ and she called them her magic arms,” says Lavelle.

The last project, which was nominated within the 
transport category, is the Donky Bicycle designed by 
London-based industrial designer Ben Wilson. He came 
up with the idea for an affordable and practical town bike in 2006 after noticing that mountain bikes were being used on London’s city streets. “Bicycle use in London was growing rapidly, but many of the bikes 
on the street seemed unsuitable for urban use,” 
he explains.

His solution was to combine the load-carrying ability 
of bikes found in the Netherlands with the strength and simplicity of BMX components. The key design feature that enables the bike to carry loads both at the front and back is a steel beam running through the design. Compact, strong and easy to ride, the Donky bike was launched in the UK in October 2012. “The idea took a while to reach production but we are very pleased with the result. Our next plans include front and rear child seat options,” adds Wilson.

An exhibition featuring all the Designs of the Year 2013 nominations is taking place at the London Museum until 7 July 2013. The winners from each category and one overall winner were announced in April. 

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