Designs of the Year

The ‘Designs of the Year’ exhibition at the Design Museum in London is a fantastic showcase of truly original, innovative ideas. I spent over an hour exploring the various entries and from talking lamp posts to a wheelchair that adapts to its users, I was inspired every step of the way. I thought I’d briefly reflect on a small selection of the many projects that, for me, stood out and met particularly interesting briefs. Indeed, voting for just one design on my way out proved a very difficult task!



 Standout Projects

Makoko Floating School This design was built in Makoko – a community built predominantly on stilts above a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria – as a response to changes in the local climate. As water levels rise so too does the structure avoiding any implications in terms of flood damage. Architecture studio NLÉ have demonstrated how architecture can adapt to environments and provide outstanding benefits to a whole region and have developed a model that can be scaled and applied to other global regions with similar needs. I wonder what other unpredictable climate changes will force us to reimagine spaces in the future. With my classroom learning head on, this could spark a great opportunity to encourage young people to research, define and design solutions to such genuine, global problems as part of a topic on weather in Geography.

Hello Lamp Post

Hello Lamp Post is an interactive system that gives everyone in Bristol a new tool to talk with each other, through prompts and questions – all facilitated by the city’s physical infrastructure. By referencing the thousands of pre-existing identifier codes that label items of street furniture across the whole city, players can send text messages to particular objects, including (but not limited to) lamp posts, post boxes, bollards, manholes, bins, or telegraph poles.


My initial thoughts:  what a great way of encouraging members of the public to interact with the environment around them and with each other through the physicality of their location. Having now ended, I wonder how the idea could be translated into other cities across the world or how it could connect people in cities around the world through physical infrastructure. Thoughts, memories and anecdotes could be held within objects and structures for others to access when travelling to new places; people could learn from each other.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the experience of travelling on public transport could be improved with a particular focus on social interaction. Every day in London, thousands of people travel together, move together, enclosed in small spaces for varying amounts of time. Yet very rarely do people actually connect or communicate during this time. It seems that interaction on public transport is deemed almost socially unacceptable and a feeling of awkwardness prevails when in such close proximity with ‘strangers’.

A study into the social behaviours of public transport users in New Zealand found that:

Sixty percent of public transit passengers intentionally avoid social interaction.

Whilst this research was carried out in New Zealand, I can’t imagine the results of a similar study here in London being much different. Clearly, there is room for positive change in this public space and I want to keep thinking of different forms this innovation could take.

Silk Pavillion (Worm Hacking!)

The video speaks for itself!

There were a lot of other designs that stood out including the Pro chair, which is designed specifically to support the ergonomics of active learning; the Clever Pack which is attempting to combine a sustainable bottle cap (each year 87 billion plastic bottle caps are made in the U.S. alone!) with a children’s toy; the Toyota ME.WE concept car; and the Seaboard by Roli a reimagined piano that reflects the more continuous nature of the instrument.

Leaving the exhibition, I briefly explored the Paul Smith collection, which documents the life and work of the designer and caught part of the interactive section of the exhibit where Smith talks about his own career and his success.

The most important thing to do is to do things differently…be curious…ask, what if?’

I think this is the most powerful message that I took from my first trip to the Design Museum. To question, to think lots and think again, to consider idea after idea until something unique is generated, to try, to test, to fail and start again, to build and rebuild until something with real purpose and significant benefits is achieved.

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