Beazley Designs of the Year, 2019


Caroline Bartlett

Research Executive, London

Our recent trip to the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition reminded us of design’s power in creating meaningful and long-lasting impact, across a range of categories and all over the world.

Our maxim as design research specialists is ‘design for real impact’, and we thought the exhibition did a great job of demonstrating the positive change design can achieve on an individual, community, and sometimes even national scale. The exhibition showcased innovative designs spanning six different categories, and out of the numerous designs on display, there were a few that really stuck with us.

Here are some TBP favourites…

In the architecture category, ProxyAddress is a system that links homeless people to unused or empty addresses. This helps those with no fixed abode with issues they face while trying to get back on their feet, such as applying for jobs or opening a bank account. The scheme is currently being trialled in London, and there are plans in motion to roll it out on a national scale.

ThisAbles is a line of 3D printed products made by IKEA in collaboration with non-profit organisations Milbat and Acess Israel. The line aims to take IKEA’s bestselling products and adapt them so that they were accessible to those with disabilities. With accessibility and diversity being running themes we saw across the exhibition, ThisAbles is an example of the real positive impact that design can bring to people’s lives.

The winning design, Anatomy of an AI System, was showcased in the digital category. It provides a large-scale and in-depth look into artificial intelligence systems such as Alexa Echo from ‘birth’ to ‘death’. The design uses a consumer’s conversation with Alexa as its starting point, and shows us the true impact of these systems in terms of human labour, personal data, and environmental cost. The project takes issues that may sometimes seem too vast or complicated to understand and makes them relatable, and shows a deep understanding of fears and anxieties around the ongoing climate crisis.

The Design Museum’s fantastic selection was underlined by a sense of looking to the future and trying to make a positive impact, placing people at the centre of every great design. It is an especially significant message in these uncertain times and reminded us not to underestimate the role design plays in the world, going right to the heart of our ethos here at The Big Picture.

As ever, the impactful thinking on display makes The Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition well worth a visit.