Later today, the Design Museum will announce its pick for Design of the Year 2014. Since "design" applies to pretty much any object created by humankind, it's a pretty tough to whittle down an entire year's worth of buildings, electronics, apps, and objects to a single winner. Here are the seven finalists they'll be choosing from.
As our brethren at Jalopnik can attest, Volkswagen's super-efficient XL1 is "like driving the future." More specifically, it's like driving in a future where gas is far more expensive than it is today, and carmakers have had to adapt. Except in Volkswagen's case, it designers set out to build that car 15 years ago.
The result is the XL1, an incredibly futuristic-looking vehicle with even more futuristic fuel efficiency: 235 miles per gallon.
Baku, in Azerbaijan, is a post-Soviet city that's undergone a massive transformation over the past decade—thanks to its rich supply of oil and gas. That includes massive new buildings, like the the Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and her lead designer, Patrik Schumacher.
The center—which is named after the former Soviet leader of Azerbaijan—is intended to be a sinuous, organic counterpoint to the "rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture" that defines Baku.
Peek, which stands for Portable Eye Examination Kit, doesn't seem like a shoo-in at first glance. Until you hear the numbers. "285 million people worldwide are visually impaired," explain the three doctors behind the app. "And 80% of blindness is avoidable."
PEEK allows doctors in the developing world to deliver eye exams without any extra materials—it's inexpensive, portable, and it works.
And most importantly, it has the power to make a huge difference in millions of peoples' lives.
Prada's Spring/Summer collection of 2014 was a monster hit: Full of weird and compelling details like massive op-art prints and "teddy bear-fur coats" according to Vogue, which had this to say about the collection:
Miuccia Prada can singlehandedly turn the fashion mood with utter conviction - and for next summer we'll all gladly swathe ourselves in teddy bear fur coats, wear dresses with jewelled bras over the top, and pull sports socks up to our knees, without a qualm.
Images: AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Great design can apply to art, too, which is why the jury nominated a project called Drone Shadows. In it, James Bridle outlines a perfectly to-scale outline of a drone in cities and countries all over the world—from Brazil to the UK—to give bystanders an idea of what it's like to live somewhere where actual unmanned military vehicles are constantly casting shadows.
Do you remember the chairs your grade school used? Odds are you do—most of these chairs become iconic for their sheer ubiquity, and sometimes their horrible (or brilliant) designs.
To create a new classic, Konstantin Grcic interviewed everyone involved, from janitors to kids to insurance companies, and came up with a design that would suit all of their requirements: The Pro chair, a family of school seats that are designed to facilitate "healthier sitting."
What exactly does that mean? Grcic's team explains:
First, the round seat is similar to that of a stool so that it does not prescribe a forward sitting position. Second, the slim backrest gives the torso room to move sideways. The third and most decisive design element is the backrest's distinctive S-shape. Its lower curve allows for freedom of movement and takes strain away from the lower back and pelvis.
The Musical Instrument
It's hard to explain the brilliance of Roli's Seaboard Grand, a unique digital keyboard, until you see it in action. Rather than hard keys, the board has rubberized ones that let you wheedle unusual sounds and effects out of each note. It's almost like a synthesizer and a keyboard rolled into one—and it's a totally unique and novel instrument.
So, what say you? Which of these deserves the title of best-designed object of 2014, if any? Let us know in the comments.