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Opinion: A whirlwind look at some of the Designs of the Year runners and riders

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Editor Rob Alderson looks at the Design Museum’s shortlist for this year’s Designs of the Year and picks who he’d like to see scoop the gongs in each category. But is he right? You can join the discussion using the thread below.

There’s always a lot of interest in those who make the cut across the six Design of the Year categories but with more than 90 designs recognised it’s an overwhelming list. So here’s my picks based purely on whim and prejudice…

In architecture I was tempted to go for The Shard as its proximity to my house gives me a useful reference point wherever I am in London, while Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho is stunning, BIG’s colourful urban park in Copenhagen is really fun, A Room for London deserves all its many plaudits and Istanbul’s Museum of Innocence is wonderfully atmospheric. But if I was choosing the winner I’d go for Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park in New York which makes really interesting use of a rather strange spit of land.

Again I’m spoiled for choice in the digital category with the Rain Room, the Stamen City Tracking map project and the Rasberry Pi all super-strong contenders while it’s great to see the GOV.UK redesign recognised. But I really like Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini Viegas’ Wind Map which visualises the meteorological patterns over the USA at any given time, and which came into its own during the devastation of Storm Sandy late last year.

In fashion, Nike’s Flyknit would be an apt choice to represent a sporting 12 months while both Craig Green and Giles Deacon’s special collections would be worthy winners, but for me Elisha Smith-Leverock’s amazing I Want Muscle video made me question body image in a way few other projects did this year.

We’re long time fans of Muller Van Severen and Marni’s chairs made by ex prisoners were one of the highlights of Milan last year, but in furniture it’s Jolan Van Der Wiel’s Gravity Stool which most floats my boat. Meanwhile in transport it’s interesting to see Exhibition Road in London’s Museum District get a nod and the Donky bike is excellent but the simplicity of the Morph Folding Wheel had me at hello.

Product provided the winner last year in the form of Barber Osgbery’s Olympic Torch and who’d bet against Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic cauldron making it a double but there’s stiff competition. Berg’s Little Printer and The Liquiglide Ketchup bottle both stand out but overall it’s hard to look beyond Colalife which uses the Coca Cola network to deliver much-needed resources to impoverished areas.


And finally to graphics where Zumbotel’s Annual Report by Brighten the Corners and Anish Kapoor lines up alongside nominees like OK-RM’s Strelka identity, The Occupied Times and the latest Visual Editions offering Kapow! But letting my heart rule my head, I’d love to see The Gentlewoman win, for showing how print can have a future with the right care and attention.

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.