Designs of the year exhibition: our review

As a company that works closely with designers, the design crew here at have to be pretty hot off the trigger if they’re going to impress. With that in mind, they collected up their notepads, charged their camera phones and headed off to the Design Museum to visit the Designs of the Year 2014 exhibit.

Designs of the Year is an exhibition showcasing the most innovative, interesting and forward-looking designs from around the world and is already its seventh year. Since the 26th March, they’ve been asking everyone to select their favourite nominee from industries like architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphic, product and transport. The nominee with the most votes will go forward to the next round until the Social Vote winner is crowned.

Design Team Highlights…


Chineasy was created to help beginners learn to read Chinese easily by recognising characters through simple illustrations. It works on a principal of learning and recognising one small set of building blocks on which language students can build new words, characters, and phrases. The concept was created by ShaoLan in conjunction with Brave New World and illustrator Noma Bar.

ShaoLan, creator of Chineasy, says: “I am demonstrating the beauty of this deep and broad culture with a modern interpretation by creating sleek modern design. For me it is also an arts project, as I grew up in an artistic family. I am connecting the dots—bringing me back to my artistic upbringing, and connecting my life journey of being in both the East and the West.”

Design Intern, Julian, says: “My favourite design from the exhibition would be the Chinese language learning cards. It inspired me because it shows how you can structure design to have a purpose whilst remaining ‘cool to look at’.”

Digital Designer, Chris, says: “I liked the graphic solution to learn Chinese. A very clever shortcut to identify the Chinese symbols with their meaning.”


Lego calendar

Created and designed by Vitamins (Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, Duncan Fitzsimons and Simon Emberton), the Lego calendar is the physical manifestation of a group of creatives looking for a tangible and digital way to organise themselves. Every row represents a month and every column represents a day of the week. Each person has their own row and each project has its own colour, with the bricks representing a half day spent on that particular project. The calendar can be photographed and an application digitises the layout for organisation on the go.

Vitamins say: “We’ve been using this for almost a year now, and it’s incredible how everyone in the studio has been able to make use of it so quickly. We’ve evolved a new understanding of what a Lego brick means to us- sometimes people hide emergency blocks of “time” in their drawers in case we need extra work done last minute, and we’ve started using double height bricks to represent deadlines and important meetings. Its power is in the immediacy and tangibility.”

Copywriter, Emma, says: “As soon as I saw this, I loved it! Organisation is key to the way we work, regardless of which department or industry you’re in. The neat, tidy design mixed with the ease and simplicity of it is what really appealed to me. I mean, who wouldn’t love this in their office?”

Head of Creative, Julie, says: “This was my favourite piece; I love quirky office art and to be able to digitise it so you can track it on your laptop, phone and computer is excellent. It’s also functional, which is a massive plus!”


The Fairphone

The Fairphone, designed by Bas van Abel, is a social enterprise that uncovers complex systems with the aim of changing how things are made. The Fairphone is made as fairly as possible. Its transparent supply chain looks at every mineral, component, person and process to reveal the real impact of electronics production.

Fairphone say: “Fairphone is using design to change how people relate to their products. We want to empower people to regain control and ownership of technology by decreasing complexity and providing more transparency on how products are designed. We’re focusing on the longevity of our phones to extend their lifespan, improve repairability and build more enduring relationships with their owners.”

Designer, Dan, says: “I liked the Fairphone (a phone made entirely from ethically sourced components).  Of all the products on show, this was the most promising. I like the minimal, functional design.”


Touch Board

If you were looking for something that can turn almost any material or surface into a sensor, Touch Board by Bare Conductive is definitely worth a look in. Connect anything conductive to one of its 12 electrodes and trigger a sound via its onboard MP3 player, play a MIDI note or do anything else that you might do with an Arduino or Arduino-compatible device. The Touch Board is designed as an easy-to-use platform for a huge range of projects, like painting a light switch on your wall, making a paper piano or creating a custom interactive surface.

Bare Conductive say: “From the beginning we have been passionate about developing accessible platforms for people to get creative with technology. From paint, to starter kits and now hardware, our goal is to make electronics fun and intuitive by blending design and technology.”

Designer, Emma Louise, says: “It turns any surface into a touch sensor. I think the possibilities are endless and you don’t even need to understand electronics. It seems to be the link between technology and design…I like the idea that I could paint a light switch on my wall (without it even looking like a light switch) and using the touch-board it would actually work!”


Phew! And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg! I think Chris sums it up best when he says: “Having access to the latest trends and successful designs of the last year in a lot of different ranges was great. Not just graphic design, but architecture, transport, ecology, communication, etc. Inspiration is in everything, not just limiting yourself to your area of knowledge. I also really enjoyed being able to interact with special keyboards, headphones and using my senses rather than just watching stuff.”

The Designs of the Year exhibit is running at the Design Museum from 26 March 2014 – 25 August 2014.



Alex Wilkie
19 Aug 2014 16:01
love the fairphone........... more items like this will become more prevalant in the future
19 Aug 2014 17:40
Love the Lego calendar.
Peter Burch
20 Aug 2014 18:05
Touch Board is very cool. There's something similar for music too called Makey Makey - you wire in a similar motherboard into vegetables(!) and use them to make/record music.
28 Aug 2014 14:54
Chineasy is so cool
Stuart Glegg
09 Apr 2015 07:55
Love design!!

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