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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

The Gentlewoman #6 (Designed by Veronica Ditting)
Designed by Veronica DittingPink 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.
MA Collection (Designed by Craig Green)
Designed by Craig GreenRising 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.
Olympic Cauldron (Designed by Heatherwick Studio)
Designed by Heatherwick StudioWith 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.
Little Printer (Designed by Berg)
Designed by BergThis 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.
Child Vision Glasses (Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin Hartshorn)
Centre for Vision in the Developing World and Goodwin HartshornDesigned 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.
A Room for London (Designed by David Kohn Architects, photo: Charles Hosea)
Designed by David Kohn Architects, photo: Charles HoseaA 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.
Wind Map (Designed by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini Viegas)
Designed by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Bertini ViegasThe 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.
Medici Chair (Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi)
Designed by Konstantin Grcic for MattiazziThree 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.
Rain Room (By Random International)
By Random InternationalRandom 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.
Donkey Bicycle (Designed by Ben Wilson; photo: John Selby)
Designed by Ben Wilson; photo: John SelbyIt’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.
The Shard (Designed by Renzo Piano)
Designed by Renzo PianoYou 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?

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.

See more fantastic exhibitions in London

Fashioned from Nature review

5 out of 5 stars

This is the V&A doing what the V&A does best: staging world-class exhibitions of immaculately preserved and presented fashion. This new spring blockbuster covers the way clothing has been inspired by the beauty of nature, but has also exploited and damaged the natural world.

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday January 27 2019

ABBA: Super Troupers

Enter the world of the iconic Swedish foursome in this immersive exhibition charting ABBA's music, lyrics, creative process and influence. Part of the Southbank Centre’s Nordic Matters season, the exhibition brings together objects from private archives and ABBA The Museum in Stockholm.

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Southbank Centre , South Bank Until Sunday July 29 2018

The Lost Words

3 out of 5 stars

‘The Lost Words’, a collaboration between nature writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris, is a lot less Middle-England finger-wagging than it sounds. 

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Foundling Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday May 6 2018

T-Shirt: Cult - Culture - Subversion

If you’ve never pondered the meaning of the most affordable and popular item of clothing on the planet, then get ready top have your world turned. 'T-Shirt: Cult - Culture - Subversion' explores the many roles of the humble tee from wearable protest banner to rock’n'roll tribute. Plus, get a load of Vivienne Westwood’s private collection while you’re at it. Find out more here.

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Fashion and Textile Museum , London Bridge Until Sunday May 6 2018

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style

Go on a journey back in time and study the stories behind the design of the most impressive ocean liners the world’s ever seen. The Titanic, the Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Canberra all feature.

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday June 10 2018

Votes for Women

The Representation of the People Act was passed 100 years ago, giving (some) women the right to vote in the UK for the first time. Meet the women who helped make it happen at the Museum of London. 

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Museum of London , Smithfield Until Sunday January 6 2019

Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-2018

3 out of 5 stars

Design can influence public perception, but great design can change it. From campaign designs to protest symbols, ‘Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-2018’ explores the impact of graphic design in political and social movements over the last ten years. 

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Design Museum , Kensington Until Sunday August 12 2018
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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!