Designs of the Year 2012

I had a lot of opinions about last year’s Designs of the Year exhibition at London’s Design Museum. I wasn’t sure then that design was in a terribly interesting place; but this year it definitely is, and so – as logically follows on – is the 2012 shortlist. So what’s changed?

Above: Botanica by FormaFantasma

Several of the nominations this year are brilliant examples of designs for good: thinking that will at least significantly help the world, and maybe one day save it too. My favourite object on the shortlist by far is the Earthquake Proof Table (above) by Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno, which is designed to perform exactly as it says on the tin. Dutch Design Week’s stand-out product was also present – a very cheap landmine detector called Mine Kafon, by Massoud Hassani, which resembles a dandelion head and is designed to blow across fields, highly effectively, in the same way.

The annual Chic Classic Fashion Design slot is this year filled by Céline, while minimal and beautiful chairs are provided by Stefan Diez, RCA graduate Kihyun Kim, Very Good & Proper, and Jasper Morrison. Brazilian footwear brand Melissa got some well-deserved credit for its collaboration with Gaetano Pesce, a customisable boot made of conjoined dots of plastic.

There’s a lot of wild pattern and ornamentation present across the shortlist, in furniture from Bethan Laura Wood as well as in fashion, but Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibition, represented at the press viewing I attended by a trio of resplendent head ornaments, still looks by far the most striking.

Beautiful, propellor-like lighting was on show from BarberOsgerby (above) and Bertjan Pot for Moooi, but Thixotrope – a monumental spinning light by Troika made up of eight mechanised stuctures – stole the show for lighting with its poetic combination of science and sculpture. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but you can get an idea from the photo (below).

In Graphics and branding, my highlight was by far the knock-knock humour of this campaign by Gordon Young & Why Not Associates for the Comedy Carpet in Blackpool.

In fact, I stood in front of this exhibit the longest. In an exhibition full of nominations that can read as destructively smug and inward-facing, a floor-to-ceiling dose of retro British humour in bold typography can work wonders.

So what did this year’s shortlist do right? It took itself very, very seriously where it mattered, and very unseriously when that mattered. Category winners and overall winner announced 24 April 2012.

Designs of the Year 2012