Designs of the Year 2015: A PHD Review

A few of us from PHD went to the acclaimed Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum this week, a tradition we’ve been following for the last 3 years. Here are some of our favourite exhibits, picked out by the team:

Matthew Alderson, Media Manager:

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Never judge a book by its cover, as they say. And you shouldn’t base your vegetable shopping traits based on their shapes, according to the French supermarket, Intermarché.

They ran a Dove-esque campaign in 2014, Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables, which aimed to prove that a carrot doesn’t need to be uniform to make a good carrot soup (although it might be tricky to get some decent crudités out of them…).

The work was nominated as part of the graphics category at the Design Awards, with clean crisp white backgrounds putting the fruit and veg models to the forefront – the text colour mirroring the colour of the main subject. It has been sweeping the awards in the ad world too with 27 to its name.

What I really admired about the campaign was that, although it had an air of humour about it, there was a serious message underlying the work as food waste continues to be a serious modern day global issue. Selling the ‘ugly’ produce cheaper than the ‘regular’ stuff meant the move from the supermarket was a win-win-win; consumers get the same quality products for cheaper, the growers get money for products that are usually thrown away and Intermarché increases its business by selling a brand new line of products. Using print, billboards, TV, radio, PR, and Intermarché’s catalogues and social media platforms, the campaign reached 21m after one month.

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Another entry, this time in the product category, that caught my eye, was the one-cup kettle – or Miito, to give it its proper name. Again, the theme of sustainability and waste minimisation was at the fore of the idea (as it was across a lot of the entries). The Miito heats liquid in a desired vessel – such as a mug – using an induction method. This minimises not only the water being used (the minimum fill level in most kettles is two cups) but also the energy required to heat the water. What I really liked is the simplicity – stripping the kettle back to its core element but retaining its purpose to solve a waste issue. Like many ideas, including in our little media world, the simplest are often the best. Helps that it looks pretty cool too…

Richard Desforges, Head of Performance Planning:

There was much to admire at this year’s Design of the Year Awards, some really smart thinking, beautiful, intuitive and eloquent executions…and there was a real underlying theme of sustainability and improving the quality of life. With so many amazing and positive ideas on show I have ignored those that focused on serious and meaningful issues and picked out two pieces that deal with bona fide first world problems.

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The first one is a gorgeously simple media solution to a communications brief; the campaign to promote “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology” in Chicago. This was an exhibition which looked at Archaeology through an artistic lens and like a lot of London museums and galleries they used posters and magazines to promote the exhibition. So far, so unremarkable, right?

Well, the clever twist was that to see the beautiful artwork, people would have to behave like archaeologists themselves and ‘uncover’ the imagery. Each poster and print ad had been coated in the same stuff you get on a lottery ticket, so people had to scratch away to reveal the bright and striking artwork. Such a simple idea that brings to life the concept of the exhibition but with a really engaging, interactive experience that got people interested in and talking about archaeology like they’d never done before. Oh and just for good measure, it also revealed a special two-for-one admission offer too.

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Secondly, I’ve picked one that has resonated with my recent ventures into the world of home renovations and DIY on a budget. The problem they identified, which rings stingingly true for me, was a lack of man-skills in the modern generation of homeowner and increasing costs of living. Their simple solution was to create a single fixture around which a variety of different wall furniture could be attached. The items are so simple to construct and put up you need no tools beyond what’s in the box. It even has a really natty cardboard spirit level to make sure things go up right. MAP, who collaborated on the Sabi Space Bathroom Project, wanted to “motivate people to embrace their vulnerabilities and feel happy about doing daily tasks that may have grown challenging or mundane” – and that they have.

See the full list of nominees here.

Anjali Ramachandran, Head of Innovation:

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The Ocean Cleanup project won the Digital category at Designs of the Year. It is, as are almost all the entries for the competition, very inspiring but this one was probably the most ambitious of the lot. 21-year-old Boyan Slat from the Netherlands dropped out of his aeronautical engineering degree to devise a system by which all the plastic collected in the Pacific Ocean can be cleared, before progressing to all the oceans of the world. Why is this important? Because 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic currently occupy the Pacific Ocean, causing untold damage to our health, environment and economy. The Ocean Cleanup project received $2.2 million in crowdfunding in 2014. It essentially consists of a long floating barrier which will use the natural movement of the ocean to concentrate plastic while not damaging the plankton, instead of people going out foraging for plastic endlessly – which is the usual method (and definitely not likely to be as effective). The Ocean Cleanup team are now working towards designing and deploying a 2000m long pilot array in 2016. I am most taken by the sheer ambition of it all and the fact that they have conducted a detailed feasibility study and built a proof-of-concept, so it’s not pie-in-the-sky.

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The other project I thought was interesting was very much media-related. MegaFaces was designed by architecture firm Asif Khan Ltd. for their client, the Russian telecoms company MegaFon during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It is a pavilion that has a kinetic façade that recreates itself dynamically to showcase the faces of people who have visited the building. The project also won the Innovation Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival. I like the community element of it combined with the technology – beautiful thinking and execution in one. If you’d like to know the technical details behind how they got it to work (and come on, you know you do) here it is, from the project architects themselves:

Facial impressions are created once every minute and are relayed to the kinetic facade from multi-camera 3D scans made in proprietary instant 3D photo booths installed within the building and in locations across 30 Russian towns and cities. This fully automated process utilised a tablet-based registration app in the queue line to give each visitor a personalised QR code card, and therefore a personalised language experience within the photo booths. Each visitor received a SMS message with the time they would appear on the facade. Everyone received a live webcam link before their face was shown and recorded video was archived so that visitors, or people who participated but were unable to attend the games, could share their moment across social media.

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