Is beautiful design an attribute to warrant Design of the Year? At a time when the world is bereft with struggles, from economical to environmental, should the design which deserves that mantel be making a difference to the world? The Design Museum’s annual round up kicks off from today, and sees a mixture of the beautiful, the playful and the socially aware.
Each design was nominated by one of an international panel of design "authorities", resultng in nearly 90 designs from across all disciplines including fashion, product, furniture, digital, architecture, transport and graphics. Seven runners up, one from each category, will be chosen, and an overall winner announced on April 24th.
While this exhibition is a fun foray across all design disciplines, it begs the question: on what criteria do we judge the best design? Good design is now as much about aesthetics as it is about useability or conscience. Design classics like the OXO vegetable peeler comes to mind, which is so simple yet has subtly improved our lives ever since. It is the designs which make an impact on our day-to-day lives, or on the lives of those most in need, that should be rewarded.
Mine Kafon is my pick. A fantastic looking thing, spherical and massive, it's reminiscent of a giant dandelion. It's also an ingenius and life-saving invention. The Mine Kafon is a wind-powered landmine clearance device, created by Massoud Hassani, the machine uses it's weight to detonate landmines without harming anyone in the area. And it cost £40 to construct. It has a fascinating back-story, more on that later.
The Blackpool Comedy Carpet is a brilliant design achievement, and our Design Director, Jane Trustram's favourite: "It was a such a monumental job, the scale of it is just insane, and it will make a difference to those peoples lives who walk across it."
There are some familiar projects, also designs with the environment in mind, United Visual Artists' and Cape Farewell's High Arctic, which draws attention to the impact of climate change on the Arctic. Christien Meindertsma, the Dutch designer we featured last year, who strives to unveil the people, animals and plants behind the production of our materials. While Markus Kayser's Solar Sinter, a solar and sand powered 3D printer, really is the future.
Folly For A Flyover, a community project organised by Assemble, took up residency last summer under the Hackney Wick flyover. Their use of recycled materials and volunteer hands to create an outdoor cinema and cafe on the canal was pretty special.
There are a number of surprising nominations, which perhaps because they're under our noses don't seem so groundbreaking. One example is LN-CC, a high fashion concept store in Dalston, an anomoly on the gritty Shacklewell Lane. Nominated in the fashion category for it's interior- it's a fantastic melding of sci-fi and low-fi, with wooden tunnels and orange perspex creating a labrynthine effect. Renowned for it's exclusivity - entry is by appointment only, so you might not be able just pop in for a geez. And the Beck's Green Box project, an augmented reality art series, another unusual choice.
These are just a few of the designs nominated, there are many more especially in the digital and graphic disciplines.
Micheal Marriot's exhibition design is fantastic: cylindrical cardboard plinths and red metal picture shelves give the exhibition an industrial yet fun and uniform look, while the lay out is conducive to exploration, with design disciplines often mixed up rather than arranged in strict categories.
Some neat info-graphics on the back wall illustrate the big trends in the current crop of designs. Such as the number of designs which use an app: 8 compared to one in 2010 and none prior, the number of furniture designs which use wood, all of them. Of the mediums which graphic designs utilise, print is the foremost. 19% of all projects were designed to be sustaianble, whilst 33% were self-initated and 39% from the UK (does this reflect the choices of the nomination panel?).
While the exhibition offers an adventurous and inclusive peek at the multi-faceted design world and its many luxurius offerings, it also raises some questions. As our current economic climate forces us into a post-consumerist age, are our days of pining after the latest gadgetry numbered? Should we be promoting design as a means used to address the problems of society or to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of individuals?
See for yourself at the Design Museum