Paper cranes and iPads. Inspirational stories of unconventional designs.

Nested within the cobbled streets of Butlers Wharf is one of London’s less well known gems. After a scenic walk down the South Bank and a cheeky ice cream our PHD contingent arrived at the Design Museum for the fifth anniversary of the Designs of the Year Exhibition.

With projects ranging from graphic design and architecture to fashion and product design, this year’s exhibition seems to bring together stories of how designers have made the best use of the forces of nature and of the latest technology.

There were a lot of iPads:  from Letters to Jane, an independent arts iPad magazine , self published, edited and designed by Tim Moore, to the new beautifully designed Guardian iPad app which launched on October 2011 and was downloaded 100,000 times in the first four days.

Musicity, a location based sound track app, allows visitors to some of London’s finest locations and buildings to hear original tracks composed by musicians and inspired by those locations. The app will allow users to unlock the tracks when visiting these locations thus combining the medium of music with architecture.

Amongst the new innovative uses of mobile devices,  Homeplus, the South Korean division of Tesco, was nominated for its Virtual Store, a virtual supermarket aisle that it trialled on an underground platform in Seoul. Users could scan the barcode of the product with their smart phones and have their virtual trolley delivered to their home the same day. All of this while waiting for their train. This project boosted online sales by 130% and gave Homeplus a 70% rise in online customers.

Perhaps the most surprising of this year’s entries was the One Thousand Cranes For Japan project. Inspired by the Japanese tale that one wish would be granted to someone with the devotion to fold 1000 origami cranes, Anomaly and Unit 9 designed a website selling origami cranes created by designers, illustrators and photographers for downloading and folding. Profits would go to raise funds for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.  With the words of the organisers “the project brought the human touch to an act of charity: individuals making their own paper origami crane were expressing their personal well wishes. In Japan, folding a paper crane is an act of healing and recovery.  This inspired the designers, who felt that the image of the crane might inspire people to donate.”

So what do a slick new mobile app, a supermarket virtual store and a charity project have in common? It seems to me that the varied and inspiring stories of the Designs of the Year exhibition were most of all stories of visionaries that could see possibilities where others did not and of how new technologies and old traditions could come together to address some of the vital needs of people.

They are stories of how individuals from opposite corners of the globe have come up with different and innovative ways to solve a problem. Stories of people that have managed to bring together the old and the new in a pure simple form: from a traditional newspaper embracing a new medium to the power of a simple folded origami crane. 

via Salvo La Rosa ( @salvolarosa )

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