7 of the world’s most incredible design ideas

By Kitty Knowles 17 August 2017

From Ikea innovations to floating taxis and robot helpers. Expect jaw-dropping stuff from Designs Of The Year 2017.

Cutting edge design can save lives. It can open minds, and make the world a better place.

That’s why we love it when every year The Design Museum in London celebrates some of the most innovative ideas from around the world.

This week, the institution unveiled its nominees for the Designs Of The Year 2017 awards, and they’re pretty epic.

Take a look at seven we’ve spotted rising to the top, and stay tuned to meet even more honourees…

Graham has been designed to survive a car crash.

1) Graham

We met Graham last summer. He might look shocking, but he’s built for survival.

Sculptor Patricia Piccinini designed him for Australia’s Transport Accident Authority (TAC), with the help of two experts – trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield and road safety engineer David Logan.

His anatomical quirks mean he could live through even the worst car crash.

Graham’s head, for example, is much larger to protect his brain, rows of ‘airbag’ sacks cushion his ribs, and his knees that bend in every direction.

Commissioned to raise awareness of road safety, the Graham website even lets you peer under his skin – if you can stomach it.

Pokemon Go is life-changing for children with autism. Pic: niantic
Pokemon Go is life-changing for children with autism. Pic: niantic

2) Pokémon GO

Who didn’t at least try Niantic’s breakthrough virtual smartphone game when it launched last year?

For months on end you’d spot crowds gathering on street corners or amassing in parks hoping to catch weird and wonderful creatures in their digital Poké Balls.

The game didn’t just unite us physically, it also helped break down barriers in unusual ways – proving to have life-changing benefits for autistic kids, even luring fans to sexual health clinics to get chlamydia check-ups.

Today the app’s popularity might appear to have dropped off, but it’s still kept a hardcore fanbase of 65m active monthly users – a truly astounding feat.

Feminist emoji proposed by Google team.
Feminist emoji proposed by Google team.

3) Professional Women Emoji

We’re always harping on about the power of the emoji – and the importance of recognising it as a language in its own right – one of the great things about emoji is their ability to change in meaning, depending on time and context.

Until recently however, it was difficult (if not impossible) to refer to professionals and their jobs, without buying into sexist gendered stenotypes (all the worker emojis were dudes).

Luckily one inspiring team of Googlers (that’s Agustin Fonts, Rachel Been, Mark Davis, Nicole Bleuel and Chang Yang), stepped up with their spanking new female emoji set, adding greater diversity and representing women in the workforce.

Feminism at its millennial best.

4) Ikea’s Wedge Dowel

With its affordable smart home appliances, gorgeous green growing rooms and a clear angling to move into artificial intelligence, Sweden’s IKEA continues to prove it’s about so much more than just flat-pack furniture.

That said, sometimes the beauty in design lies in its simplicity, and the brand’s newly unveiled ‘wedge dowel’ joint is wonderfully simple.

It’s an innovation that means you can now build stuff, with no hammering, no nuts, no bolts – and no panic.

Who doesn’t want to save time, money, and the environment, with a joint that means you can deconstruct and rebuild your bed time and time again.

5) The Pilot

We couldn’t help but listen up when NYC tech business Waverly Labs explained their incredible invention.

The Pilot is the world’s first translating earpiece, for the first time making it possible to hold a conversation with someone speaking a different language you don’t understand.

The device currently works with 15 different languages but can be updated with more.

“Imagine a life untethered, free of language barriers,” Waverly founder Andrew Ochoa says.

Who doesn’t want a world where we can start to understand each other better, as if we were all speaking the same language?

Image: SeaBubbles.

6) SeaBubbles

This unusual water taxi from French designers Alain Thebault and Anders Bringal was always going to make waves.

With zero noise, zero CO2 emission, and a self-charging dock that gives back energy to the grid and cleans the waterways, its a stunning green vision of the future.

This year the company unveiled a new prototype and revealed it’s raised an additional €10m to turn its water-faring dream into reality.

Watch out for these fantastic floating zipping up and down Paris’ River Seine at speeds of up to 30km/hr.

Gita by Piaggio. Pic: DesignBoom

7) Gita

Piaggio Fast Forward – the company behind the Vespa scooter – has created a robot to carry your stuff.

The two-wheeled Gita can track its owner and roll along behind them, it can go up to 22 mph, and tackle rough roads and bad weather.

Like the takeaway delivery bots that have started to hit the streets, it can also roll off on its own to any pre-assigned destination.

We can’t wait for this to hit the stores in a few years time.

Designs of the Year 2017 exhibition will be displayed at the Design Museum, London, from 18 October 2017 – 28 January 2018. More info here

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