Brit Insurance Designs of the Year

Review

of an Exhibition

by Frankie Roberto

Published on April 02, 2008

  • Description:

    The latest exhibition at the Design Museum has a very simple purpose: to showcase the 100 shortlisted entries in their new annual Design Awards (sponsored by Brit Insurance). Divided into seven categories – architecture, graphics, fashion, product, furniture, interactive and transport – the nominations were made by design experts from the respective disciplines, with a grand jury currently deciding the winners.

    Walking around the exhibition is a mixed experience, with the exhibits being so varied. You can’t help but go around spotting which ones you’ve seen or read about before, keeping a mental tally to evaluate how on-the-pulse your design knowledge is. More worthwhile though is the discovery of the new, such as gorgeous mobile phone designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, or the innovative and playful PizzaKobra table lamp, which can be flexed into either of the shapes that its name suggests. Also worth playing with is the Tenori-on electronic musical instrument, which is both intuitive and duffer-proof, enabling anyone to quickly compose nice-sounding tunes.

    Whilst the products probably hold the most popular appeal (a Wii and an iPhone are also featured), the transport and architecture projects are also pretty engaging. Several of the transport entrants will be interesting to Londoners in particular, such as the Christoph Behling designed solar powered boat, which shuttles passengers across the Serpentine lake in summer months. There’s details too about how the number-plate recognising CCTV cameras were overhauled for the western extension of the congestion charging zone. Londoners should also pay attention to the designs of the Velib communal bike hire project, currently operating in Paris, which politicians are hoping to export to the capital.

    Within the ‘interactive’ category, two of the entrants are set up as live installations that you can try out yourself. SHOWstudio’s The Replenishing Body Kiosk (pictured above), features a projection with a five by five grid of 1 second looping videos, recorded by visitors using an attached video camera. The nature of this exhibit means it’s constantly changing, giving you a view of the recent visitors. Direct participation involves a certain amount of extrovert performance, but it’s not too hard to think of a second’s worth of amusing body animation.

    Even more intriguing is a piece called Private View, by Paul Cocksedge Studio. At first appearing to be nothing more than a blank, black wall, if you follow the instructions to take a photo of it with your digital camera/cameraphone, an image is magically revealed. How it works exactly is a mystery, but it’s certainly a neat and novel trick, if limited in its application.

    The fashion, graphics and architecture categories are a little less visitor friendly, although there’s a good deconstruction of a project by Ian Cartlidge to redesign the signage system at the Selfridges department store. Also worth picking out are the architectural designs for the Stephen Lawrence Centre, which opened in Lewisham, London recently, and was shockingly vandalised soon after.

    The seven category winners in this competition will be announced on 11 March, with the overall winner being declared on 18 March. Visit before then if you want to have a go at picking out your own preferences, or after then if you want to see whether you agree with the judges. Either way, wandering through this exhibition is a rewarding experience, and acts as a good shop window into the rich and varied world of design.

    Note: This review was originally published at http://www.greatexhibitions.co.uk/blog/brit-insurance-designs-of-the-year-design-museum/

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