Design innovation at the start of 2021

2020 was a challenging year in so many ways, but it gave us the opportunity to understand just how much it is necessary for our societies to change. Taking care of the environment, our health and other challenges that rose to the surface during the global pandemic, all forcing us to re-evaluate our profession of design, as well as the arts and the creative economy in general.

We see more and more designers, artists and other creatives striving to make the world and its communities better through their work and specific talents. As 2021 gets underway, in this section we want to share some of the great initiatives, concepts and products which are inspiring us and are setting new standards for doing things in a creative and different way.

A great example is the ecological or ‘living’ concrete made from a mix of bacteria and sand, being developed by the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA. This remarkable material, as hard as regular concrete, is capable of remaining alive and even reproducing – a real paradigm shift! Such materials give us hope that the negative impact of human construction on the planet can be reduced, even allowing us to imagine buildings and cities that are in a way ‘living’ things.

An arch made from living building materials in Dr. Srubar’s lab.

It is imperative to find creative ways to lengthen the life-cycle of all the waste being generated during this health crisis. This proposal by South Korean designer Haneul Kim is one way to recycle plastic masks and turn them into a product (in this case, a stack-able stool) using simple manufacturing processes.

Multicoloured Stack and Stack stool by Haneul Kim

The Spanish start-up Novameat is surprising the world with their proposal to use 3D printing technology to create cuts of plant-based meat. How can we envisage the future of human food in a world with increasingly limited resources and rising poverty? This team of engineers and researchers offers a sustainable option, and their disruptive product will certainly spark debate on a multitude of food-related topics.

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Play can be so many things: a starting point for debate and political standpoints; an act of resistance; a symbol of unity and togetherness. In the case of the Design Award of the Year winner it was all of these. This accolade was awarded in January to architecture studio Rael San Frattello for their seesaw installation “Teeter-Totter Wall” at the USA-Mexico border. An almost symbolic product and act with an enormous political, social and cultural background, the installation was live for just 20 minutes but quickly went viral globally. A far-reaching piece that invites us to reflect on the work of design, its considerations, and above all the impact that an object can have in the public sphere and how it can alter the dynamics of its inhabitants.

Finally, an innovation in the field of new materials: “Quantum Stealth” from the Canadian company Hyperstealth Biotechnology. This astonishing material makes any object behind it seem to disappear. The technology is still at the development stage, but it is certainly out of the ordinary. It’s not hard to imagine the enormous potential for use across many sectors and industries. To explore something as intangible as light and discover invisibility sounds like science fiction but is already becoming a reality.

Quantum Stealth "invisibility cloak" can conceal people and entire buildings

What are your thoughts on these new proposals? What new developments in design are inspiring you at the moment? Join us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn – we’d love to welcome you to the conversation!

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