To whet my appetite for this year’s London Design Festival, I headed to the Design Museum to see see the Designs of the Year 2015. This year’s awards focus on designs that deliver change, enable access, reflect current trends, and extend the boundaries of design practice. Sustainability, and consideration of environmental impacts, is rising up designer’s priority list: it is not just about product form, but also life-cycle function. Designing for the Sixth Extinction, by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg for the Science Gallery, Dublin, set an apocalyptic tone exploring how synthetic biology could replace natural species or protect against pollution, disease and biodiversity loss.
After the sombre start, Inglorious Fruits could not fail to crack a smile. To reduce annual food waste of 300 million tonnes (57% of which is due solely to appearance), Intermarché, the 3rd largest supermarket chain in France, decided to sell imperfect fruit and vegetables at a 30% discount. The ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables’ campaign, designed by Marcel, reached 21 million people in a month creating a new business line for Intermarché, providing the customer with the same quality food for less and paying growers for produce previously wasted. A welcome nudge that reminds beauty is found within.
One effective way to create positive behaviour change is to capture young hearts and minds. To that end, some inspiring educational projects are among the nominees. The Garden School, designed by OPEN Architecture, for the Changyang Government, Fangshan District, Beijing, aims to become the first triple green star rated school in China. The architects designed multiple levels above and below ground in a branch-like shapes creating undulating landscapes that allow more light into classrooms, and open spaces. The roof of the upper building is an organic farm, with each of 36 classes having their own plot.
320 million people on the African continent lack access to clean drinking water, and yet the majority live in regions where it rains more than 600mm per annum. Waterbank Campus at Endana Secondary School in Kenya, designed by PITCHAfrica for the Annenburg Foundation, is a working model for rain-harvesting school for semi-arid regions. Seven ‘Waterbank’ buildings are designed to harvest, store and filter high volumes of water using low-cost materials to provide drinking water and irrigation. Four acres, of the ten acre site, are devoted to irrigated conservation farming. At the centre of the campus is a rain-water harvesting football and volleyball stadium, with the aspiration that football will be catalyst for environmental education, and reduced ethnic tension. The school may even make use of the BRCK, a robust, portable, mobile WiFi device developed by Ushahidi, in Nairobi. Cloud-managed, the BRCK will automatically search and reset to a stronger signal, and the eight-hour battery life means a steady connection even when there is a power surge or cut. With an built-in global SIM the BRCK could be deployed in disaster response situations.
With a throw back to the beginnings of Carefully Curated, Marjan van Aubel (a 2013 nominee with James Shaw for the Well-Proven Stool) has again been nominated this year for her Current Table designed with Solaronix. The elegant table is made of glass-topped, copper-toned dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC), an efficient form of photo-voltaic cells. The dye absorbs light, even when diffuse indoors, and creates energy through photosynthesis. The table has two USB charging points, and a battery to store the energy. The only snag is whether the people round the table will be able to turn their attention from device to dinner.
Field Experiments Indonesia, a design collective exploring often overlooked aspects of sustainability, those of culture and authenticity. Souvenirs are often ‘made in China’ and disconnected from the destination. I recently saw ‘Aboriginal’ Australian sculptures, made in China, for sale in a service station on the M6. Field Experiments provides an antidote of more than 100 objects made by designers and traditional craftspeople sharing knowledge, culture and materials over a three month period in a nomadic studio in a farming community outside Ubud.
The drum-roll is reserved for Ocean Clean-Up, Digital Design of the Year Winner, and at the time of my visit, the runaway winner in the People’s Vote. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans, and each year, 8 million tons of plastic are added to the count, according to a report from the Ocean Conservancy. This bold project is leveraging the power of digital communications to gather funding and know-how for large scale clean-up projects of our seas. Ocean Clean-Up’s feasibility work suggests using a single 100 km cleanup array, deployed for 10 years, will passively remove 42% of the great pacific garbage patch. As tabloids predict chaos at the arrival of a 5p charge for single-use plastic bags in England, perhaps this long overdue nudge will prompt people to realise there is no away in ‘throw-away’.
And finally, my personal post script, the Double O bicycle light, designed by Paul Cocksedge, solves a personal pain-point. The two lights snap together magnetically and the circular hole in their middle means you can slip them on to a D-lock. The LED light is designed not to dazzle other road users too. Simple, and safe.