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

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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 gov.uk 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

Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls' House

  • Free

Here's your chance to have a poke around somebody else's house and discover tales of marriage, parties, politics and crime – without feeling nosey. At the V&A Museum of Childhood's winter exhibition, 12 dolls' houses from the museum's extensive collection represent changes in architecture and design over the past 300 years and provide an insight into the lives of the characters that inhabit these delicate creations.

  1. V&A Museum of Childhood Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Sep 6
More info

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous Londoners ever. This exhibition at the Museum of London seeks to find out who Holmes is, and why Arthur Conan Doyle's late-Victorian detective endures to this day. Exhibits will include a nineteenth-century portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, original Holmes manuscripts and the very coat and dressing gown worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC's 'Sherlock'. Many of the paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs will reveal details of Victorian London, giving a glimpse of the famous landmarks and cultural climate which inspired Conan Doyle's creations.

  1. Museum of London 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Apr 12
More info

The Institute of Sexology

  • Free

The Wellcome Collection's newly expanded gallery space will open with a wink and a blush with The Institute of Sexology, an exhibition that brings together the great pioneers of the study of sex. More than 200 pieces of art, erotica, photography and ethnography will help visitors get a new perspective on perversions, lust and normality, with live events, discussions and performances to accompany the X-rated exhibits.

  1. Wellcome Collection Euston Rd, NW1 2BE
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Sep 20
More info

Christmas Past

  • Free

One of London's prettiest attractions, tucked into a cleverly converted almshouse building, the Geffrye Museum in east London traces changes in middle-class taste in interior design through a series of period room settings. At this time of year, a few carefully researched festive touches are added to each space: a spray of greenery here, a bauble there; nothing very flashy. Modest though it is, there's something rather magical about 'Christmas Past'. Fans of this gem of a museum tend to make an annual pilgrimage to stock up on great Christmas cards from the museum shop and savour the show's seasonal charm.

  1. Geffrye Museum Kingsland Road, E2 8EA
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info
Visit more exhibitions in London

Users say

1 comments
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!