From David Bowie’s album cover to a DIY robot surgeon, the Design Museum is exhibiting the best designs of the past year from the world’s greatest minds.
Now through February 19, the Design Museum in London is exhibiting 70 top products and concepts of the past year from brilliant designers around the world. A panel of respected designers and artists selected designs from well-known companies — such as Adidas, LEGO and NASA — as well as college students and even a group of insightful eight-year-olds. Each product or concept is in the running for best design of the year because it “promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.” At the end of this month, the museum will announce the top six Beazley Designs of the Year and one overall winner.
The panel has a difficult task ahead, choosing from a long list of extraordinary designs. Here we’ve selected some of our favorites, one from each category: architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport.
Architecture: Dreamland Margate
Designers: HemingwayDesign: Wayne Hemingway, Gerardine Hemingway, Jack Hemingway, Kate Costigan, Megan Sadler
Architects: Guy Holloway, Ray Hole Architects
Advertising Agency: M&C Saatchi
From 1880 through the 1990s, a seaside center in Margate, Kent, England, treated visitors to amusement rides. But in the early 2000s, the amusement park fell into disrepair and became a frequent target of arsonists. Though it was on the verge of being demolished, residents campaigned for eight years to finally see it restored. Now named Dreamland Margate, the site is a dreamy vintage-style amusement park with entertainment, dining and retro rides. Thanks to the expertise of HemingwayDesign, Dreamland Margate has magnetic and highly Instagrammable appeal, demonstrating the power of thoughtful, brilliant design — and what a community can accomplish when they work together toward a shared goal.
Designers: OpenSurgery was developed as a graduation project by Frank Kolkman at the Design Interactions department of the Royal College of Art (London UK, 2015). The initial concept originated from the Healthcare Futures Workshop at the KYOTO Design Lab (D-Lab) at the Kyoto Institute for Technology (Kyoto JP, 2014).
In response to increasing health care costs worldwide, Frank Kolkman designed OpenSurgery to provide a more accessible alternative to multimillion-dollar commercial robot surgeons. Building on design knowledge from open source communities, OpenSurgery combines 3D printing and laser cutting with everyday items and components available online. Although a qualified surgeon would need to operate it, a builder almost anywhere in the world could use the files to replicate the robot surgeon at a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterpart, making life-saving equipment accessible to all. Kolkman states, “If you would be able to build a community of makers who bring the same amount of attention and dedication to building surgical tools as they do to designing 3D printers and CNC machines these days, I believe accessible DIY surgery equipment would be within reach.”
Fashion: Children vs. Fashion
Designers: A group of eight-year-olds from CEIP La Rioja School, Madrid, Spain
Eight-year-olds in Madrid, Spain, reacted to a series of fashion campaigns, and the results are enlightening. In Niños vs. Moda, the children looked at ads and articulated simply what they saw: women in the images were described as drunk, ill, rubbish, stressed and mean, and men were perceived as happy, smart and heroic. The video raises many questions about the hidden messages of fashion editorials: Why are these unbalanced messages associated with glamour and luxury? Why do brands support this messaging? And, most importantly, what can we do to change it?
Graphics: ★ (pronounced Blackstar)
Designer: Jonathan Barnbrook
Jonathan Barnbrook used the unicode blackstar symbol for David Bowie’s final album. The artwork is easily identifiable, and its simplicity invites fans to focus on the music. In an interview with Dezeen, Barnbrook said, “It’s subsided a bit now, but a lot of people said it was a bullshit cover when it came out, that it took five minutes to design. But I think there is a misunderstanding about the simplicity.” On May 2, 2016, four months after the album’s release, a Reddit user revealed a hidden element of the design: “A friend discovered that if you expose the Blackstar gatefold to sunlight a starfield appears. What a beautiful secret.” After Bowie’s death, the basic design, which used open source elements, itself became open sourced. Now anyone can engage, interact with and use the Bowie Blackstar font.
Product: Design Museum Dharavi
Designers: Amanda Pinatih and Jorge Mañes Rubio
Dharavi is a two-square-mile informal urban settlement (commonly called a slum) in the heart of Mumbai, India. In February 2016, Design Museum Dharavi became the first museum ever to open in an informal settlement. Curator Amanda Pinatih and artist Jorge Mañes Rubio partnered with URBZ, a Mumbai-based urban research collective, to challenge the negative perception of informal settlements around the world. Piatih told The Guardian, “Museums are the cathedrals of the 21st century. When you have a museum, you count.” Around one million people live in Dharavi, and Design Museum Dharavi is a platform for the products they design. The museum’s website says the venue is “a flexible meeting point where individuals can showcase their skills, find potential clients, teach workshops to the rest of the community and take their own practice one step further.”
Transport: BeeLine, smart navigation for bikes
Designers: Mark Jenner (cofounder) Tom Putnam (cofounder) Map Project Office (design partner)
BeeLine is an intuitive, minimalistic navigation tool for cyclists. BeeLine doesn’t give standard satellite navigation turn-by-turn directions. Instead, like a customized compass, it simply guides the rider toward their destination with an arrow, leaving the cyclist free to choose their own route and explore their surroundings. Yes, please!
Be sure to check the Design Museum’s website to see all the amazing designs of the year. The Design Museum will announce a winner in each category and one overall winner on January 26. Previous overall winners have been the Olympic Torch (2012) and the Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid (2014). Last year the highest honor went to Human Organs-on-Chips, a microdevice lined with living human cells to mimic the body’s complex tissue structures.
The Design Museum in London will display the Beazley Designs of the Year through February 2017. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the area by then, click here to plan your visit.
What’s your favorite design of the year?