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Brit Insurance Design Awards 2011

Mimosa uses Philips OLED panels

The sun is just about managing to shrug off a rather cold winter in London and what better way to showcase a bit of optimism than this year’s Brit Insurance Design Awards. The nominees have been announced and the top floor of the Design Museum has been taken over by the functional, amusing and in some cases downright eccentric ideas that have made the important people stop and look. Here then is a brief look at some of those designs that I thought might walk away with a prize.

Mimosa by Jason Bruges Studio nominated in the Interactive Category

Jason Bruges Studio designed this experimental installation to showcase Philips’ Lumiblade OLED panels. Called Mimosa after the plant of the same name, the installation reacts to a visitor’s hand moving above the display by forming delicate floral-like patterns. Each panel is configured to move independently with the display emitting a strange mesmerizing glow. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Vanmoof No.5 with integrated chain lock

Bicycles were popular this year with a range of interesting ideas. The Vanmoof No. 5 bicycle is not only strong, light and hipster enough to match your skinny jeans it has an innovative locking mechanism. The chain lock is integrated into the frame and pulls out or draws back in as needed. The very well-done and incredibly popular Boris Bike (or Barclays Cycle Hire) has also been nominated as a system under the transportation category. This is my tip for the win.


The Yike Bike with the folded version on the right

Slightly off to one side is this next design. Called the Yike Bike it claims to be “the world’s first super light electric folding bike” and comes with a healthy glow of eco-green awareness. Going a step further in its eccentricity is the way you ride it with the large wheel in front and your hands on the grips which are placed either side of the seat. Sort of like a futuristic Penny-farthing. Sadly it does not have cool blue neon accents and I’m pretty sure Jeff Bridges doesn’t have one.


In a class of its own–the Apple iPad

Speaking of cool gadgets from the future, the Apple iPad is quite predictably one of the nominations. In fact the revolutionary device should have its own category given that many of the interactive nominees are Apps for the iPad, the hugely popular Angry Birds being one of them. With version 2 of the iPad rumoured to launch on the 2nd of March Apple continues to deliver a user experience that is second to none.

Melonia Shoe

On to another revolution the world of techno wizardry with the ‘world’s first’ 3D printed couture shoes. This year looks to be the one where 3D printing services become a lot more mainstream with the devices getting cheaper and more accessible, the Makerbot being a good example. The shoes shown above are manufactured according to a scan of a customers foot. The design is adapted to the unique structure of the foot and then sent to a 3D printer which builds the form layer by layer out of a special resin. The designers also claim the shoe is recyclable because the material can be re-used again.


Blueware by Studio Glithero

Fancy something a bit more hand made? These Blueware vases and tiles are rather beautiful and are made by coating the porcelain with photosensitive chemicals. Dried weeds and other plants are then composed over them and the entire set up is exposed to ultraviolet light, a bit like making a Cyanotype. The work looks to capture the moment of creation or the process and is part of a larger collection by Studio Glithero.


Seed Cathedral by Heatherwick Studio

Finally the architecture category has this excellent piece of work by Thomas Heatherwick, whose Spun chair is also nominated. The Seed Cathedral was the UK Pavillion at the Shanghai Expo 2010 and was easily one of the more popular attractions at the event drawing in the crowds and the press. Each of the 60,000 transparent strands in the final structure has a seed embedded within its tip, the building acting as a showcase for the work at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.


Plytube by Seongyong Lee. Lee developed a technique of laminating layers of wood veneer using similar technology that is used to produce cardboard tubes. The result is a strong and very light material used in Lee's range of simple furniture

There were a few disappointments among the nominations, some being more of a spectacle than anything else with nominations for fashion being rather uninspiring. The RCA was well represented again this year with their graduates continuing to push ideas in innovation. The winners in each category will be announced on the 28th of February with one overall winner announced at the awards ceremony on the 15th of March. Click here to view the full list of nominees.

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