While the Speculative category of the Core77 Design Awards has traditionally focused on design fiction, this year saw a much broader range of entries. From thought experiments to bleeding-edge technology to hypothetical gadgets, the 2014 honorees point to the design of the future as much as the future of design.
The jury, Led by Founding Director of SymbioticA Oron Catts, the jury team selected a total of 21 honorees for the Speculative category. Read on for more information on each of the projects:
Student Winner: Whereabouts, by Jacob Brancasi and Betsy Kalven
Whereabouts challenges the misconception that design can only serve the developing world through the classic social impact tropes of natural resources, healthcare and infrastructure. The project brings a speculative mindset to Kampala, Uganda, through three objects: Clinque Din Low, Boad Whisper Helmet and the Hush Hush Headset. Art Center College of Design students Jacob Brancasi and Betsy Kalven wanted to help people cultivate a better awareness to the world around them, and this trio of wearables are what came from their research. "This project is stood out as demonstration that speculative design does not need to be highly technological in order to be successful," says the jury. "By using seemly simple tools as story telling devices the designer(s) were able to convey a multifaceted cultural situation. Posing three 'what if' questions, which seem initially as very specific, the project asks some fundamental questions about the role design and designers play when they come to 'fix problems'; In particular when design comes to, so called, developing countries. The project calls into attention the need to comprehend the complex context of operating within an intricate web of social, cultural and economic situations that are all too often neglected by design."
» Learn more about Whereabouts
Professional Runner Up: I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin, by Ai Hasegawa
Ai Hasegawa's work, I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin, is exactly what it sounds like: a parable about cross-species gestation and its greater implications. The work addresses birth as a means to meet our demands for nutrition and outlines the technicalities of how feasible this idea really is. The jury applauded the project's "out there" response to a serious issue: "This project represents the power of speculative design to identify problems and intensify them through a well thought and delivered scenario. The project touches on the relationship of humans with other non-human animals. Its starting point is already of that of otherness, being asked from a non-western, non-male perspective. The questionable idea of giving birth to a non-human engendered animal as a way to deal with human overpopulation and non-human animal extinction is compounded with the proposition of actually eating that very same offspring."
» Learn more about I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin
Professional Runner Up: Parasitic Products, by Studio PSK
Parasitic Products, designed by Studio PSK, offer a twist on biomimicry, transposing the parasite/host relationship to a series of digital radios that depend on another appliance for their power supply. Inspired by existing parasites—the gall wasp, the ichneumon wasp and thehookworm—each radio behaves as an electronic analog to its biological basis. The jury team appreciated the work's refreshing angle on combining nature and technology: "[The] Parasitic Products project proposes a fresh take on product design processes with an interesting perspective on the complex relation between technology and nature. The design of the produced prototypes is strong and articulated, and the underlying research is profound and well documented." Juror Robert Foster commented "I particularly liked parasitic products as like most good design, nature did it first."
» Learn more about Parasitic Products
Professional Runner Up: Hyperform, by Marcelo Coelho and Skylar Tibbits
Frustrated by the volume constraints of desktop 3D printers, Hyperform allows users create designs that are bigger than the machine that produces them. Marcelo Coelho and Skylar Tibbits researched computational and material folding strategies that made it easier for the device to take on large print jobs. "I was also attracted to Hyperform as an idea as it could because it is like an old idea placed in a new realm," says Foster. "3D printing will become part of future life but one of its downfalls is size. The project was well researched and considered, I like ideas that are simple and yet can change the world for the better."
» Learn more about Hyperform
Student Runner Up: Conterfactual Story of a Sleepless Archipelago, by Faustine Lavorel
"What would happen if humans didn't need to sleep?" This simple question is the starting point for "Conterfactual Story of a Sleepless Archipelago," a design fiction brought to life through 3D elements such as drawings, diagrams, plans and other objects to tell the story of an isolated enclave in the Arctic Ocean whose inhabitants decided to stop sleeping in the 1960s. The work follows the society's progress and adaptations such as behavior, food intake, transportation and housing, among other things. "We were excited to see a speculative future driven not primarily by technological change, but by a something much more social and psychological. The goal of the project was to imagine a total world transformed by a different way of living. The designer's attention to detail, clear visual language and pure zaniness bring a fresh voice to the practice of design fiction."
» Learn more about Conterfactual Story of a Sleepless Archipelago
Student Runner Up: Declarations of Interdependence, by John Ryan
Art Center College of Design student John Ryan created a series of interactive prototypes that challenge the idea of individual and collective roles within digital media. The prototypes consist of a computer with a multi-user keyboard; a social media platform that's crowdsourced by your own social network; a website that can only be accessed when a certain number of users simultaneously connect from the same location; and a machine that monitors a group's behavior and visually represents the most dominant individual by using algorithms. The jury shares their thoughts: "The author ironically proposes possibilities for a new kind of individualism and modes of action through interventions with common computer interfaces, e.g. a computer that requires multiple users at the same time. The project questions the foundation of our contemporary construction of the self and the self-ownership, which are also the basis for the existing design ideals for technological artifacts and network infrastructures."
» Learn more about Declarations of Interdependence
Professional Notable: World View, by Priestmangoode
Designed by Priestmangoode for Paragon Space Development Corporation, World View transforms the way we perceive near-space travel in terms of onboard comfort and convenience. The craft is designed to spend 2–6 hours at 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) in the air to offer passengers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
» Learn more about World View
Professional Notable: Dialog, by Artefact
Living with a chronic disease or disorder is hard enough as it is, and adjusting one's lifestyle to keep the disease under control can be a task in and of itself. Artefact's project, Dialog, is created specifically with epileptics in mind. The system consists of a wearable module that collects information on the wearer and their immediate environment and an app that provides insights on the data collected and information on triggering factors for physicians and caregivers.
» Learn more about Dialog
Professional Notable: Modular Recycling System, by Dejan Orlac
Dejan Orlac's Modular Recycling System makes it easy to sort and store your things, whether you're looking to separate salvageable waste or organize your possessions. The stackable system comes with various labels for types of recyclables making it easy to switch up their order and location in your home or office.
» Learn more about Modular Recycling System
Professional Notable: Phonebloks, by Dave Hakkens
Phonebloks introduces a completely new approach to customizing a smartphone. Dave Hakkens has literally broken the device into its most basic building blocks, where modular components such as the battery, processor, memory, camera, etc., can be added or removed from the base (the screen, of course).
» Learn more about Phonebloks
Professional Notable: Melihat (mel-ee-hot) Enhancing the Power of Sound to See - A Brighter Future for Maternal Health, by Robert Meurer
Robert Meurer's Melihat is a portable ultrasound device for those with limited access to medical facilities and technolgoies. The ultrasound system is applied to the body via probe, producing sound waves to generate 2D images based on the distance and intensity of the echoes. The real difference with this kit is its ease of use, from packing and unpacking to booting up and managing image files.
» Learn more about Melihat (mel-ee-hot) Enhancing the Power of Sound to See—a Brighter Future for Maternal Health
Professional Notable: NYC BEACON Public Communication Hub, by frog
frog's NYC Beacon brings access to a telephone (and important contextual information) to the masses. The 12-foot, concrete/stainless steel hub features a series of voice- and gesture-activated LED screens that display neighborhood maps, evacuation instructions and other visuals (such as ads). The repurposed payphone connects New Yorkers and tourists alike to essential city services.
» Learn more about NYC BEACON Public Communication Hub
Student Notable: Meat Up, by CoSpec
The discussion about genetically modified foods has historically focused on flora, but we will soon have to address the implications of lab-cultured meat as well. CoSpec, a team from the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design, dove into the role of cultured meat and its implications on society. The project comprises 11 prototypes that re-imagine rituals and traditions in a world where cultured meat is the norm.
» Learn more about Meat Up
Student Notable: Communication - Assisting and Advancing Listening, by Western Washington University Sr. ID
For something as important as a hearing aid, you would think there would be more well-designed options out there. Luckily for hearing aid wearers around the world, the Communication - Assisting and Advancing Listening project from Western Washington University's Sr. ID program isn't too farfetched of an idea. The device looks much better than many options on the current market and can be controlled via smartphone—no more awkward pauses to switch up settings.
» Learn more about Communication—Assisting and Advancing Listening
Student Notable: Embodying Empathic Expressiveness, by Jurrian Tjeenk Willink
Robots are increasingly a part of our daily life, whether we realize it or not, but anthropomorphic machines remain elusive. When they do arrive, however, we will certainly need to communicate with them, which will entail not only voice commands but gestures and body language as well. Eindhoven University of Technology student Jurrian Tjeenk's Embodying Empathetic Expressiveness focuses on how we might develop this intuitive relationship with our bots—not to mention the technical insight into preferred methods of getting things done.
» Learn more about Embodying Empathic Expressiveness
Student Notable: Synthetic Anatomy, by Simon Crane and Julian Goulding
The adventure of 3D printing body parts has only just begun—which is what makes Victoria University of Wellington students Simon Crane and Julian Goulding's work so intriguing. Synthetic Anatomy only focuses on creating ears, but that's the beauty of it. The hypothetical results are anatomically unique prosthetics that fit the user perfect and has all of the qualities of a real ear.
» Learn more about Synthetic Anatomy
Student Notable: Drones for Foraging, by Public Design Workshop
Drones for Foraging puts the recent trend of owning a personal drone to use as an urban forager. Georgia Institute of Technology's Public Design Workshop put together a project that utilizes image capture, navigation interfaces and analysis to assist foragers in gathering their goods. According to the designers, the real motivation for this work is "to use design as a means of investigating future practices and to provide the basis for near-term open innovation with DIY and hobbyist drones."
» Learn more about Drones for Foraging
Student Notable: Algaemy—Crafting our Future Food, by blond & bieber, Essi Johanna Glomb and Rasa Weber
In a world where organic materials are highly sought after and sustainability is paramount, blond & bieber have found a sweet spot with their material study. Their project, Algaemy—Crafting our Future Food, combines the resourcefulness of cultivating our own food and the creativity of designing clothing. The work is an investigation into the potential of microalgae as a pigment in textile printing. Why algae? "The global temperature is rising rapidly," the designers say. "This affects not only our ecosystem on land, it also massively changes the balance of our waters and seas. One species that seems to profit from those new harsh conditions are algae. Certain types of algae are not only incredibly resistant to warmth, they even profit from a higher CO2 level, from waste waters and salt."
» Learn more about Algaemy—Crafting our Future Food
Student Notable: Voice Booth, by Dionysia Mylonaki
Vocal inflection is important when you're trying to get a message across. Dionysia Mylonaki—a student at the Royal College of Art—has developed a way to break down the tonal elements of our voices and train users to "act in real life." The tool provides visual feedback on how the voice sounds, breaks it down according to social and lifestyle norms and gives us a chance to assess our most important tool of expression and the messages we're really delivering. The system pulls the digital skills we've more recently acquired and puts them to use in turning the voice into a flexible and meaningful tool.
» Learn more about Voice Booth
Student Notable: GripHint, by Shu Yang Lin and Priyanka Kodikal
Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design students Shu Yang Lin and Priyanka Kodikal are helping autistic children explore self-expression through written word and doodling with their pressure-sensitive pen, GripHint. When force is applied to the instrument, an LED on the body of the pen intensifies and guides the user, in terms of how to hold the utensil. This design is a much more playful (and efficient) substitute to having someone constantly monitoring the user's technique.
» Learn more about GripHint
Student Notable: Walden Note-Money, by Austin Houldsworth
Royal College of Art student Austin Houldsworth's work gives a whole new meaning to the cliché act of money burning a whole in your pocket. Walden Note Money—"a monetary system designed within the cultural context of B.F. Skinner's Walden Two"—introduces a new process of exchanging money, which ultimately results in destruction. Once a transaction has occurred using the device's coinage (which is made from potassium nitrate and sugar), the contraption burns the money, where the smoke from each denomination generates a different tone in its chimney.
» Learn more about Walden Note-Money