Daniela Ivanova

Designs of the Year 2015

On a sunny Friday afternoon Fjordians from our London Studio visited the Designs Of The Year 2015 exhibition at the Design Museum, to gather some inspiration from the best design ideas in the past 12 months. The exhibition showcased nominated designs, in six different categories including Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Product, Graphics and Transport.

The museum also hosts the AXA PPP Health, Tech & You exhibition, showcasing award-winning designs in the healthcare industry. Combined, both exhibitions definitely presented an inspiring snapshot of trends and pioneering design. A few themes I found particularly fascinating:

Google’s Self-Driving Car

As designers we love stories and we always try to communicate and celebrate the stories behind our creations. However, the message behind Google Self-Driving Car was meant to describe the “human feeling” of the car, rather than the story of how the car was engineered. I found it very moving that the video illustrated the value of the car through recording the passengers’ experiences, whilst steering away form the engineering genius behind the product.

The self-driving car could make a real difference in people’s lives – it would be incredibly empowering for people with limited sight capabilities, for example. It would enable them to get around on their own accord and thus bring back a major part of their lives that the rest of us usually take for granted. The car definitely provides food for thought on the frequently visited and intriguing topic of the human-machine dichotomy. Which is more reliable and which acts more righteously? Do we aim to humanise machines and envision that machines should copy human behavior, such as slowing down along a curve and accelerating in the curve? Or do we tend to rule out the diversity and variation of human emotion and behaviour, by enforcing a by-the-book behaviour? Are we losing something along the way? In the case of road safety, there’s no doubt in my mind that slowing down before a curve is a good idea!

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Sustainability and Bio-Inspired Design

A strong theme that ran across many of the design categories was environmental sustainability.

Examples included:

• Versatile mycelium ‘Grow It Yourself’ materials by Ecovative;

Innovative air-purifying billboards developed by the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru which have been installed in Lima;

The Ocean CleanUp campaign set to rid our oceans from plastic litter through extraction, prevention and interception.

… and more.

The progressive thinking that is reflected in moving away from merely raising awareness about our planet’s resources towards taking action, definitely marked some of the most inspirational designs at the exhibition for me.

I was thrilled to see a couple of examples from the bio-inspired field as well. Human Organs-on-Chips by Dr Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh, is a mind-blowing concept that brings a strong ethical dimension to an area where ethics has always been a controversial issue, and that is the pharmaceutical industry. Surely one of its most impactful aspects is providing an alternative to animal and human drug testing. Besides ‘fixing’ the past though, the concept also opens up a new world of possibilities for the future. The Lung-on-Chip mimics the structure and function of the human lung and its air sack, by using a polymer and real human tissue.

We may well be seeing the beginning of drugs tailored to a particular individual’s body. One might wonder, if in the future, we will be able to not only test compatibility and suitability of drugs but also predict how our body would respond to different treatments. If we could emulate the unfathomable supermachine that is the human body, by linking organs-on-chips to act as a whole, could this turn into our individual living medical record?

Daniela Ivanova

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