Design Museum exhibition – Designs of the Year 2015

I’ve said this before, the people at the Design Museum in London know how to present artefacts. One of the current exhibitions, Designs of the Year 2015 is a case in point. Conceptually, it is very simple: present 60 or so design ideas to demonstrate the scope for design in modern times. Scope is everything from fashion to ways to save the planet. Here is a selection of what I deemed to be the best after my visit on 29 July.

2015-07-29 14.08.46The evolution of chairs is a perennial design discussion. This one (left), I like the most as it takes inspiration and scientific validation from nature. It is by the Italian designer Odo Fioravanti, and is called Dragonfly. Seemingly dragonflies have an imbalance between the weight distribution between their front legs and tail. The chair deals with this with ribbing (which can be seen underneath). Equally interesting, however, is the process involved. In order to validate the design, computer aided structural tests were undertaken and plastic mudflow analysis conducted before the injection moulding process started.

Next, is an example as design for safety. 2015-07-29 14.13.45It is a jacket that anticipates a body-damaging accident or fall from a motorbike. There are sensors in the front fork (to detect a collision) and on the side (in anticipation of a non-collision-caused fall). A wireless signal is sent to the jacket which then inflates and protects the vital organs and bones. The designer is Vittorio Cafaggi.

Bike_lightsAs a cyclist, the development of bicycle lights over the years has been welcome. In the old days they were big, unreliable and often invisible to other road users. I currently have a set of Brainy Bikelights which I am delighted with. However, these (left) by the Paul Cocksedge Studio, are great for urban riders prone to having their lights stolen. The idea is that when the rider locks the bicycle with a D-lock, the lights can be locked at the same time as they have a suitable hole in the middle. Neat.

Next up is the electricity-generating table (right) by Marijam van Aubel. 2015-07-29 15.06.07The table is for home or library use and can, without direct sunlight, generate enough electricity to charge a mobile phone, tablet, etc. This is another good example of borrowing from nature as the 8 dye sensitized solar cells replicate the process of photosynthesis used by plants. The dye replaces chlorophyll. Stylish, too.

2015-07-29 16.45.17Continuing on the energy theme (left) is the kinetic floor system. Essentially these are slabs that absorb the energy injected into them when one walks over them and converts it into electricity. Each slab flexes by 5mm – enough to create 5w of power. Seemingly, slabs on a highly walked-over area at peak time – say in the morning – can generate sufficient electricity to provide the street lighting in the evening for the walk back.

Moving on to the humble kettle. Normally we overfill them 2015-07-29 16.13.11and waste energy in the process. This device, called Milto (right), is by Nils Chudy and Jasimina Grase which ‘re-imagines’ the kettle. This is a common ruse of designers, the ‘re-imagination’. It uses ‘induction technology’ similar to that employed in hobs on domestic cookers. The cup, teapot, or whatever is placed on the base and the rod inserted. It then heats the liquid and turns off when boiled. Extraordinary.

Three more designs are of note. First – and certainly one that is for me special if it reduces the use of animals in medical research – is the so-called, human-organs-on-chips experimental technology. It is the work of Donald Ingber and Dan Dangeun Huh. Ingber is a biologist at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard in the USA. Essentially they are computer chips with a piece of polymer lined with living human cells that mimic the tissue structure, function and mechanical motions of whole human organs. It seems perfectly feasible that this technology could be far superior to the animal models in its predictability and efficacy.

2015-07-29 16.29.28Second, is protocel footwear. The idea here is to create footwear that changes depending on the level of impact generated by different surfaces. Seemingly, protocels become semi-living substances through the manipulation of their chemical structure. It is the work of Shamees Aden who thinks that it could be possible for the shoes to create a layer of skin on the foot. Not yet the height of fashion, even in training shoes, but I can see the benefits.

And finally, the exhibition hall has a big board on which to display the votes of visitors for the best design. Leading by a country mile, and deservedly so, is the2015-07-29 16.23.37 Daniel Project (right). It is what is says on the can – 3-D printing of prosthetics for people affected by conflict. It is the brainchild of Nick Abeling of a design studio called, appropriately, Not Impossible. Daniel lost both arms in an explosion when he was tending his cattle in South Sudan. They are now producing one arm a week and transforming the lives of amputees as a result. Though of course, getting rid of the munitions that cause the problem in the first place needs to be done as well.

I recommend this exhibition to all. And these are only a sample of the ideas.

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