Designs of the Year 2014 winner announced

Zaha Hadid's controversial Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku has won the top prize. Here we look over the category winners and nominees, and interview the curator.


The Design Museum has picked a winner from the 76 nominees for this year's Designs of the Year awards – which included an eclectic mix of architecture, publications, products and campaigns: from design monographs, hilarious animations with a serious point to innovative apps, devices and a smattering of Lego.

The overall winner was the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan – designed by the architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the prize.

Like last year's winner, the Gov.uk website – and arguably without hindsight the previous year's Olympic Torch – this is a choice that will split critics and commentators (and generate lots of attention for the museum). The HAC is an undeniably beautiful and innovative piece of architecture, but – as Creative Review's Patrick Burgoyne points out – glorifies a despot in a country where human rights abuses are still occuring.

Use the slideshow controls above and right to the nominated projects.

The nominees were split across Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport.

Three projects that immediately stood out to me due to their profile in the creative community – and beyond – include the CityMapper app we’ve all come to rely on for getting around London, and the Nest Protect networked smoke detector that's become a poster child for the Internet of Things (and led to its creator Nest being bought by Google). Another unsurprising entry is the Dumb Ways To Die animated film (with annoyingly/charmingly catchy song) to promote rail safety in New Zealand that won big at both the D&AD Awards and Cannes Lions in 2013 (poster right). It's nominated in the Digital category.

Also nominated are Chris Ware’s superb Building Stories, a beautifully illustrated story told across comics, newspapers, pamphlets and more; the monograph of M/M (Paris), designed by Graphic Thought Facility, the Oculus Rift, a Lego Calendar and the GoPro Hero 3 Black video camera.


Last year’s surprise winner was the Gov.uk site – a central UK government site that aims to makes accessing services such as passport renewal or information on how to start a business easier, but which is more of a bastion of great user experience design than aesthetic beauty. In contrast, 2012’s winner was Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby's elegant London 2012 Olympic Torch.

Right: Design studio Vitamins' Lego calendar is a real board for project tracking created using the plastic bricks, but the studio also built an online service that turns photos of it into information that's fed into the studio's Google calendar.

Nominated in the Digital category.

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Also up for grabs is the Visitor’s Vote, which lets visitors to the exhibition pick their favourite – which last year went to two heartwarming pieces of technology that improve the lives of children around the world: the Child ViSion Glasses that let wearers change their prescription as their eyes change and the WREX ‘Magic Arms’ exoskeleton for children with muscle weakness. A third went to a ketchup bottle that ketchup doesn’t stuck inside.

Right: The Oculus Rift is cheap, lightweight VR headset that offers a lot of potential for creative agencies.

Nominated in the Digital category.


New this year is a Social Award, where followers of the museum’s social feeds can judge their favourite entries.

Right: The CityMapper app combines Google Maps, the Transport for London website, fitness and taxi apps into one amazing whole.


The exhibition runs March 26 to August 25 at the Design Museum's current locations near London Bridge.

Right: Chineasy is a visual way people to learn about Chinese languages and culture. It was created by ShaoLan Hsueh with illustrations by Noma Bar.

Nominated in the Graphics category.

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Right: The Gourmand is a food/culture journal created by David Lane (creative director), Marina Tweed & David Lane (founders/editors-in-chief).

Nominated in the Graphics category.


Right: Thibault Brevet's Grand Central is an Arduino-based device that prints tweets at giant size.

Nominated in the Graphics category.

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Right: Formlabs' 3D printer Form 1 uses stereolithography, which uses a laser to cure liquid resin into microscopic layers, resulting in much more precise creations than with traditional extrusion-based 3D printers.

Nominated in the Product category.


Right: The Nest Protect is a smoke- and carbon monoxide-alarm that communicates with your home network and smartphone to alert you even if you're not at home. It's now owned by Google.


Right: The Makoko Floating School in Nigeria is exactly that, a prototype educational establishment created for the water community in Lagos. It was designed by NLÉ and Makoko Community Building Team.

Nominated in the Architecture category.

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