The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013

Welcome to the end of another year, people! We made it, and not without a ton of brand new stuff to carry us into 2014 and beyond. We saw lots of beautiful, interesting, and just plain weird things, but here we've rounded up the items that stuck with us; not just because of what they are, but also because of how they were made, or the interaction they required, or—yes—the way they made us feel.


A Wind-Powered Factory That Makes Chairs, Scarves, and Pillows

Merel Karhof established the brilliant Windworks at a coastal mill in her native Holland; the installation produces furniture that's cut, dyed, and knit with "a free and inexhaustible energy source; the wind." Wood is cut by a wind-powered sawmill, wool is dyed using pigments ground at a color mill, and Karhof's knitting windmill turns the wool into pastel-colored cushions for the furniture. I think this might be my favorite project from the year.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


How Two West Coast Hikers Turned Brooklyn's Trees into a New Perfume

"Wild" fragrance firm Juniper Ridge has been running a pop-up shop this fall in Brooklyn, where it's been hosting sidewalk distillations of local plantlife—literally making cologne from the trees and bushes of Williamsburg—and running the occasional smell hunt, a short guide to the trees of the neighborhood based on what the public can sniff.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Horny Roomba Just Wants To Draw Robot Peens

What if, instead of cleaning carpets, your Roomba just wanted to fuuuuuuck? LA-based media artist Matthias Dörfelt programmed Robo Fabers with a singular objective: to randomly generate illustrations of mechanical sexy bits.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Mind-Boggling Spherical Gear Made from 3D-Printed Moving Parts

New York-based Proxy Design Studio describes incredible, 3D-printed spherical gear called the Mechaneu as just "the first in a series of kinetic, 3D-printed objects designed to explore the limits of 3D printing as an art form."

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Good Lord, This Pottery Zoetrope Is Absolutely Mesmerizing

This perfect little clip commissioned by the UK Crafts Council, which shows a lump of clay transform into an earthenware zoetrope.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Watch the MTA Assemble a Prismatic Tunnel To The Sky

The Fulton Street Transit Center was designed by Grimshaw Architects with the help of James Carpenter Design Associates. This sky reflector—the largest piece of artwork the MTA has ever commissioned!—was installed over April and May of this year as part of an initiative to unite architecture, art, and natural lighting for the approximately 300,000 people they expect will use the station everyday.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Entire Awesome Star Wars Poster Was Illustrated From Memory

John Hendrix has been sketching the Star Wars universe since he was a kid; now, as a grown-up illustrator, he's put that practice to good use for a visual love letter to the movies.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Five of the Coolest Pieces From the Biggest Week in the US Art World

German media artist Björn Schülke knits engineering and technology into incredible kinetic installations. Luftraum is a mobile whose whirrs and clicks are powered by solar panels, motor, wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, custom circuits, and motion sensors.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


100 Fantastic Toy Cars Made By Fun-Loving Modern Designers

One hundred different architects and designers have each put their own creative spin on a small wooden car for 100% ToBeUs, a traveling exhibition of super minimal mini-roadsters; each of the rolling blocks was made from a single chunk of cedar, measuring in roughly six inches long, carved by Italian craftsmen

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Surreal Exhibition Explores Half-Finished and Incomplete Products

In the Making, an upcoming exhibition at London's Design Museum curated by British design golden boys Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, will present a range of familiar products in various states of not-quite-finished-yet to give a glimpse at the industrial goings-ons before an item hits the shelf.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Chair Was Made From Artichokes And Cooking Oil

University of Edinburgh grad Spyros Kizis engineered a new material made from artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus)—a naturally occurring, resilient crop in his native Greece—mixed together with a bio-resin composed mostly of waste oil from cooking. Together, they form a thick, spreadable eco-plastic that's durable when dried and one-hundred-percent biodegradable.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Explore the Extraordinary, Glittering Infinity Rooms of Yayoi Kusama

I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, a spectacular and intense show by 84-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at Chelsea's David Zwirner gallery, touches on mental illness, suicide, and the role of art at the most basic level.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Digital Fabrication Gone Wild!

Andrew Kudless founded his Oakland-based studio Matsys back in 2004, and has spent the last decade developing a wide range of new, bio-inspired production techniques that reverse the traditional approach to construction. "I'm interested in how living systems relate to architecture," he tells Gizmodo. "Architecture usually follows a top-down design process—you have some type of genius idea, then everything is relegated to that one idea. There's no consideration for how it might change over time."

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Watch Music Turn Into A 3D-Printed Augmented Reality Sculpture

Interaction designer Lukazs Karluk put an audio clip through a gauntlet of digital and physical transformations, resulting in an augmented reality tabletop sculpture.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Gorgeous New Posters From an Abandoned Printing Press in London

The folks at Faber & Faber, an independent publishing house in London since 1929, recently found a forgotten hand press in their archives. As it turns out, the half-century-old machine was used by the firm's most famous designer, Berthold Wolpe: they've since refurbished the relic, which is going to be back in action producing limited edition broadsides and paper goodness for a brand new imprint.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


An Exquisite Book Printed Entirely Without Ink

Commissioned by Chanel for its No. 5 perfume line, Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom's object d'art is 300 pages of designs embossed gently onto white paper. Altogether, it's five centimeters (two inches) thick—a nod to its subject. The book tells the story of Gabrielle Chanel in a way that nothing else could: through texture, text and, incidentally, the lack of scent.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Listen To 100 White Albums Played At Once

Rutherford Chang is a vinyl collector with a singular focus: The White Album. The New York-based artist has built up an impressive catalog of almost 700 (!) numbered copies of the 1968 double album. Taken together, his findings have become a kind of beautiful exhibition, but Chang has also recorded audio from 100 pressings, and overlaid them into a single track. And it is incredible.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Every Airline Should Offer This Adorable Flying Cutlery

Designer Eugeni Quitllet was hired by Air France to redesign the airline's in-flight cutlery and tableware. And as part of the new line, he went above and beyond the call of duty with a set of cutlery designed just for kids that transforms into a small airline of their own.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


5 Eye-Popping Designs That Visualize Sound

French digital artist and "voice sculptor" Gilles Azzaro transformed a fitting snippet of President Obama's 2013 State of the Union address into a series of 3D-printed peaks and valleys (which look like a ship in a bottle... minus the ship). As a laser beam scans the black object from end to end, the President's words to the nation can be heard loud and clear.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


The Image Toaster Brings Google Images to Your Breakfast

Image Toaster peruses the Internet for an image, picking it out based on Google Image results relevant to the particular day, then imprints it on your warm and crunchy bread.


The Tender Loving Care That Goes Into a Single Lamp

Ingo Schuppler's Schwarzes Gold lamps are made from charcoal and copper; each lamp has a unique, black shell to contrast with its golden, copper innards.


Kinky Geometric Quilt Patterns Are Generated By Computer Code

Using code framework from Processing, Toronto-based textile artist Libs Elliott merges the tactile appeal of traditional quilts with the modern edge of computer processing to illustrate what happens when a free-spirited set of triangles love each other very, very much.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Inside the Cardboard Chapel That Replaced an Earthquake-Ruined Church

In the aftermath of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, Christchurch officials invited Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to come up with a temporary solution to the city's lack of a cathedral. His solution finally opened this year: The a-frame roof is made out of 98 huge cardboard columns, anchored atop a foundation of shipping containers that provide a stable base. The main decorative flourishes are the triangular colored-glass windows, each veneered with bits of imagery from the original cathedral's stained glass windows.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


A Cool Contraption Generates Earthenware Using a Catenary Arch

Great Things to People, a Santiago, Chile-based creative studio, developed the Catenary Pottery Printer (CPP) to produce earthenware using an organic process. Depending on the arrangement of the anchor points, type of textile, and kind of mixture used, a near infinite variety of unique forms can be made.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


The Lost Art of Painting a Sign

This trailer for Sign Painters promises great things for a documentary that's set to showcase the amazing talents of those who still practice the art. Taking in two dozen painters working in cities throughout the United States, it's a celebration of quality, craftsmanship and artistic flair.


A Starry Mural That Hums When You Touch It

Reach is a "large-scale interactive mural and musical instrument" by designer Scott Garner for a Tough Art residency at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. When visitors get up close enough to touch both the moon and a star, a tone will play.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Stylish Watch Lets Blind People Feel Time

Designer Hyungsoo Kim created the Bradley, a watch that lets blind people feel the time. One ball bearing on the time indicates minutes, and another on the side signifies hours. The ball bearings are connected to the watch face with magnets, and they move when you touch them, but spring back into place with a slight shake of the wrist.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Watch a Designer Turn Soda Cans Into Stools on a São Paulo Street

London-based designers Studio Swine created a small, impromptu furniture production facility using little more than local tools and secondhand "waste" materials. Can City was inspired by São Paulo's informal recycling system, which is powered by catadores—independent collectors who gather aluminum and cast-offs in their handmade carts.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Swing Set Is the World's Coolest Musical Instrument

A trio of unfussy plywood and knotted rope swings make up Baloica ("rocking," according to Google Translate), and each plays a single note when going back or forth.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Artist Paints With Pigments Made From Toxic Sludge

John Sabraw, an artist and professor at Ohio University, was checking out some abandoned coal mines in his home state during a sustainability immersion course and was struck by strange gradients in the runoff. He teamed up with environmental engineer and fellow Ohio University professor Guy Riefler to turn the muck into something far more appealing—a brand new kind of pigment.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Fahrenheit 451 Is Easier To Burn With This Clever Matchbook Cover

Artist Elizabeth Perez designed a new cover for the book that features the same gritty striking material you'd find on a matchbox, screen-printed on the spine of the book—complete with match included.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


An Interaction Designer Creates a Tactile Comic Book For the Blind

Working with a blind collaborator named Michael and NOTA, a Copenhagen-based institute for the blind, Berlin-based interaction design student named Philipp Meyer spent seven weeks prototyping and testing a tactile graphic novel that's completely without text.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Three Hypnotic Soundscapes Made From Paper, Air, and Motors

Swiss artist Zimoun uses simple, cheaply-bought materials, like cardboard boxes, cotton balls, and pieces of string in his sonic installations, which he animates using hundreds of DC motors. His latest soundscape was installed in an empty water tower in an industrial park in Dottikon, Switzerland.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Trumpet Blasts Solos Made of Glass

Strange Symphony is a collaboration between designer Philipp Weber and glassblower Christophe Genard which takes the time-tested blowpipe and bolts it on to a modern trumpet's guts, allowing its user to "improvise" each piece of glass. Each key on the trumpet directs air out a different hole on the device's business end, and produces some unusual results.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


The 22 Best Product Designs of the Year

This Surface Tension lamp by Front blows a bubble to from a temporary transparent shade round an LED light. The lamp will create 3 million bubbles over the course of its 50,000 hour life.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


The 12 Best Furniture Designs of the Year

Using small circular tubular steel to semi-cover over existing objects including cabinets and chairs, Tuomas Markunpoika burnt away the sculptural piece, leaving the charred steel structure behind. Inspired by the designer's grandmother's fight with Alzheimer's, Engineering Temporality evokes the ideas of vanishing memory.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013

Jolan Van Der Wiel developed a "magnet machine," whereby he positions magnetic fields above and below a container of polarized material containing metal shavings. Gravity determines the shape of the stool.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


Nike Fridge Magnets Let You Design the Perfect Sneaker

Nike created a wonderful set of magnets that lets anyone be a sneaker designer, as long as you're ok with never being able to wear your creation.

The 38 Most Interesting Designs of 2013


This Short Film About Shoemaking Will Make You Want to Sport Better Footwear

The most recent in a series of short documentaries by filmmaker Dustin Cohen, The Shoemaker is a film about Frank Catalfumo, a 91-year-old shoemaker and repairer who's lived in Brooklyn his entire life.