Our world is in flux, but good design can help create a better future.
Beazley Designs of the Year 2018 is an exploration of the ideas of the future—those designs which will shape our world. The exhibition, which takes place at the Design Museum in London, showcases the year’s most innovative and provocative designs from around the globe. Standout topics include waste as a resource, biofabrication, and the border between truth and lies in a digital world. Aric Chen, curator-at-large for M+ and guest curator of the Beazley Designs of the Year, said “the exhibition … reflects the uncertainties we face at this moment.”
Creative and conscious waste management is a major focus throughout. The exhibition opens with the theme “water is precious, and so is waste.” Reflecting key insights from our latest report “The New Sustainability: Regeneration,” the showcase warns that our current use of resources is already exceeding planetary boundaries. Present production needs a system overhaul with a more considered approach not only to the materials used, but also to the waste from the manufacturing process and the end-of-life for the finished products. The plastic-free aisle at supermarket chain Ekoplaza in the Netherlands helps consumers make more eco-friendly grocery store purchases. Also from the Netherlands, Studio Formafantasma’s project Ore Streams repurposes waste into furniture (for example, using an old MacBook keyboard to construct a desk), challenging the current lack of e-waste recycling infrastructure.
“Natural materials are now synthetically produced” examines the future of materials beyond petroleum-derived plastic and animal-based products. The future will be grown. New materials made from algae, mycelium and yeast are revolutionizing product development. Modern Meadow in the United States uses genetically modified yeast to grow materials biologically similar to leather, while France-based Algae Lab from Studio Klarenbeek & Dros at Atelier Luma has created a 3D printed bioplastic from locally grown algae.
The foundational role of technology looms throughout the exhibition. The zone entitled “Real and fake are being redrawn” addresses technology head on, probing technology’s impact on the blurring of “true” and “false” in modern society. Rather than focusing on how to make “fake” seem more real, innovative designers are reasserting reality, embedding truth back into the online world. Designed by Gusmanson and Drog, Bad News is a game that aims to give real people the power to decipher whether online news and information is real or fake. By demonstrating how fake and even viral news is created, it shows users how they can begin to recognize the hallmarks of deceit, and challenge this in real-world situations. Counter Investigations is a work from Forensic Architecture that demonstrates the power of data and images taken from satellites, official news sources and even smartphones to reconstruct 3D crime scenes, turning data collection and surveillance into positive forces for good. The reconstructions are used to uncover war crimes and human rights abuses and to prosecute perpetrators.
With more than 87 projects from around the world, the 2018 Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition provokes a definite response from visitors—be that wonder, enlightenment or anger at the current state of the world. Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, sees design as, “a lens that brings into focus the world around us.” Provocative designs prove the value of creativity in tackling the real issues facing the world—they don’t just expose the problems, they help solve them.