Designs of the Year: the contenders

We round up our favourite contenders for the award that celebrates the most inventive design from the past year



Add +

Polish your interesting specs and pause to marvel at the best design from the past twelve months. The Design Museum's Designs of the Year exhibition shows nominees in seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – and, as ever, it's a deliriously broad mix. Where else can you see The Shard, Angela Lansbury and a mini newspaper-maker all vying for a prize? Category champs and an overall winner – the website – were announced on April 16, but why not tell us your favourite designery delight in the comments box below.

Designs of the Year? Let us know what you think...

  • The Gentlewoman #6

    Designed by Veronica Ditting

    Pink and grey are always cool together, as shown in this issue of The Gentlewoman which features legend of stage and screen Angela Lansbury as its cover star.

    The Gentlewoman #6
  • MA Collection

    Designed by Craig Green

    Rising fashion star Craig Green plays with ideas of utility and function for his Autumn/Winter 2012 collection. Inspired by luggage carriers, the large wooden structures have connotations of religious pilgrimage and dwarf the models to create abstract, menacing silhouettes on the catwalk.

    MA Collection
  • Olympic Cauldron

    Designed by Heatherwick Studio

    With its 204 copper petals aflame like a giant fiery sea urchin, Heatherwick Studio's design for the 2012 Olympic Cauldron wowed the world at the 2012 Games opening ceremony. We reckon it’s flamin' brilliant whether it wins or not.

    Olympic Cauldron
  • Little Printer

    Designed by Berg

    This happy little chap is designed to live in your home, bringing you news, puzzles and gossip from your friends. In a natty combination of new and old media, Little Printer enables you to use your smart phone to set up subscriptions, which it will gather together to create a mini newspaper.

    Little Printer
  • Child Vision Glasses

    Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn

    Designed by The Centre for Vision in the Developing World these self-adjustable glasses allow the wearer to tweak the lenses until they focus clearly. The specs are based on a fluid-filled lens technology developed specifically for use by kids and young adults who have no access to opticians.

    Child Vision Glasses
  • A Room for London

    Designed by David Kohn Architects, photo: Charles Hosea

    A Room for London (nominated in the Architecture category) is a wonderfully whimsical temporary hotel room designed by David Kohn Architects in collaboration with artist Fiona Banner in response to a competition organised by Living Architecture. It looks like a boat washed up by a freak high tide on the Thames and has proved a poetic addition to the Southbank skyline, playing host to numerous artists, musicians and thinkers as well as paying punters.

    A Room for London
  • Wind Map

    Designed by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini Viegas

    The Wind Map shows the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US using different shades to signify different speeds and directions in endlessly entrancing patterns.

    Wind Map
  • Medici Chair

    Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi

    Three types of wood – thermo treated ash, walnut and douglas – are joined at irregular angles to make the Medici Chair. We think it looks like a stylish update of the classic Adirondak chair and a pretty comfy perch.

    Medici Chair
  • Rain Room

    By Random International

    Random International’s Rain Room gives visitors the chance to experience how it might feel to control the rain. The trick is that due to the special sensors built into the structure, as the water pours down from the ceiling, you can stand in the middle of the shower and not get wet. During its Barbican Curve Gallery stint it offered a double-whammy of Britishness, being both weather-related and so popular that to see it you had first to stand in a lengthy queue.

    Rain Room
  • Donkey Bicycle

    Designed by Ben Wilson; photo: John Selby

    It’s the steel beam that turns this compact bicycle, created by British industrial designer Ben Wilson, into a load-bearing donkey of a bike. Perfect for those gas bottle/terrier transportation dilemmas.

    Donkey Bicycle
  • The Shard

    Designed by Renzo Piano

    You can probably see it from your home, your office, and your bus on the way in to work. Towering over the rapidly regenerating London Bridge Quarter, Italian architect Renzo Piano’s omnipresent Shard has already made the transition from super-ambitious building project to hot new London landmark. Can it also scoop a ‘Design of the Year’ gong?

    The Shard

The Gentlewoman #6

Designed by Veronica Ditting

Pink and grey are always cool together, as shown in this issue of The Gentlewoman which features legend of stage and screen Angela Lansbury as its cover star.

See more fantastic exhibitions in London

IWM Contemporary: Mark Neville

  • Free

As part of the launch of the Imperial War Museum's new First World War Galleries, this exhibition from British artist Mark Neville is a response to the war in Afghanistan. The work was commissioned by the IWM's Art Commissions Committee and arts association Firstsite Colchester in 2010, and the artist spent two months with an air assault brigade in Helmland Province to get a thorough insight into the impact of conflict. The photographs and films are a moving and direct portrayal of young British soldiers, and Afghan children growing up in the midst of the violence.

  1. Imperial War Museum Lambeth Rd, SE1 6HZ
  2. Until Thu Sep 25
More info

Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Free

The war was just too big, confided William Kennington after he had completed his masterpiece ‘The Kensingtons at Laventie’ in 1915, one of the first things you’ll see in the ‘Memory’ section of this captivating two-part show. The authorities had hoped that Kennington would make more paintings to rival his pin-sharp, quietly devastating depiction of his unit – knackered, wounded, each soldier caught in a moment of reflection after their march back to billets from the trenches. But he couldn’t do it. The war was just too big.

  1. Imperial War Museum Lambeth Rd, SE1 6HZ
  2. Until Sun Mar 8
More info

An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition

  • Free

When you've got the run of a collection of objects, artefacts, images and sculptures as eclectic as Henry Wellcome's, creating an alphabet of exhibits is as easy as A-B-C. But the Wellcome Collection have form in innovative exhibitions, and 'An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition' presents a whole theme around every letter, often with a way for visitors to interact with the display.

  1. Wellcome Collection Euston Road, NW1 2BE
  2. Until Sun Oct 12
More info

Ancient Lives: New Discoveries

This exhibition aims to unravel the mysteries of mummification. From a priest’s daughter to a temple doorkeeper, the interactive displays explore the identities of eight individuals, using their embalmed bodies to uncover clues about how they lived. By using new non-invasive procedures, such as CT scanning and 3D visualisation, the BM has built up a picture of life in the Nile Valley over 4,000 years.

  1. British Museum 44 Great Russell St, WC1B 3DG
  2. Until Sun Nov 30
More info
Visit more exhibitions in London

Users say

Daniel O'Farrell
Daniel O'Farrell

It has to be The Rain Room. Simply jaw-dropping. Sure, the aura of it is a lot more impressive to the reality, but it's still pretty darn good experience!