Design Museum’s Designs of the Year 2017: Nominees

This year’s nominees are a pretty good reflection of what happened over 2016 – Pokemon Go, Kanye West clothing and the Olympic Refugee Flag.

This year marks the tenth anniversary for the Beazley Designs of the Year competition – exhibited in The Design Museum in London – and there are a lot of amazing designs to be celebrated.

This year's nominees reflect the political turmoil of 2016 and rising social protest and symbolism over issues of migration, sexism and racism. But there are also symbols of harmony and togetherness. 

Among impressive practical designs, such as IKEA furniture without screws (this couldn’t come soon enough) and a 3D printed self-driving bus, there is an impressive array of deeply emotional-driven designs born out of political angst. This includes Wolfgang Tillman’s Remain Campaign, and the Pussyhat worn by protesters for the Women's March following sexist comments from President Donald Trump.

But among designs that reflect deepening division between society, there have been designs that reflect acceptance and understanding, such as a hijab designed by Nike, the Olympic Refugee Flag and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

The annual Designs of the Year exhibition and awards is made up of 62 nominations across six categories: Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Product and Transport. A panel of judges is comprised of international designers, curators and creatives.

The exhibition will open on October 18. A winner will be selected in each category alongside an overall winner, to be announced on January 25. Check out last year’s winners and nominees, including a flat-pack refugee shelter which topped the overall list of nominees.

In this feature we look at standout nominees for the Beazley Design of the Year 2017 across the six categories.


Smithsonian National Museum of African American History

This museum in Washington DC is the culmination of a decades-long battle to recognise the significance of the black community in American society. The museum was inaugurated by President Obama in September 2016, and designed by Davis Brody Bond, from SmithGroupJJR, for the Smithsonian Institution. It houses galleries, administrative spaces, theatre space and collections storage space. The building is a three-tiered structure covered in bronze plates. The cladding is patterned to reference the history of African American craftsmanship.


2016 was the year of the digital – there has been a huge range of incredible entries, including a 3D model of a Syrian torture prison and 3D printing of objects for the home, making it extremely hard to pick the highlights. But we tried out best.

Premier League

DixonBaxi designed the on-air branding for the whole Premier League television experience which was viewed by more than two billion fans. The experience included designing show titles, in-match graphics, AR, touch-screen and studio graphics.

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Meet Graham

The strange looking figure by Patricia Piccinini for the Transport Accident Authority swept up numerous awards at this year’s D&AD Awards, so there are no surprises the interactive lifelike human sculpture has been nominated for Design of the Year.  The sculpture demonstrates human vulnerability and the features that would be needed to withstand a car crash.

Pokemon Go

Of course, Pokemon Go. Captivating the minds of young and old globally, baffling augmented reality startups, and paving the way for future interactive games, Niantic’s Pokemon Go virtual mobile game definitely deserves a nomination one year on from its surprising success.

Professional Women Emoji

We all knew the existence of 'professional women' emoji had been lacking, but a cross cultural team at Google actually managed to bring together a series of women in different economic sectors, including a scientist, construction worker, and teacher.  

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Usually fashion isn't a significant category for us at Digital Arts, but this year a number of nominees prove relevant across all design sectors. 

Pussyhat Project

The pussyhat is a symbol of support for women’s rights and political resistance, born out of frustration with the Trump residency. What started as a small project among friends turned into a global affair, allowing for women who couldn’t attend the Women’s March in January to still show support. Women were encouraged to knit and wear the iconic pink pussyhat for the march as a visual representation.


The amount of plastic and rubbish floating in our beautiful oceans has made headlines recently, but so too has Ecoalf  – a clothing range manufactured in Spain that uses 100 percent recycled material, with the aim to remove marine waste from the bottom of The Mediterranean Sea. The fabric is made up recycled polyester found in the sea (with the help of fishermen), post-industrial linen, Tencel and post-industrial cotton.

Life of Pablo merchandise

How could there be design awards without Kanye West in there somewhere, especially with his recent venture in fashion? His series of 21 pop-up stores globally sold products to promote his latest album – Life of Pablo. The stores have been created in partnership with Bravado. It was the first simultaneous, global pop-up event, with each venue announced 24 hours before they opened in each city, to bring a sense of exclusivity to the products.

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Nike Hijab

The Nike Pro Hijab was designed to help Muslim women engage in sport easier. Nike worked alongside a team of athletes to develop the single-layer stretchy Hijab inspired by Sarah Attar’s win for Saudi Arabia at the 2012 Olympics.


Finding Her

This campaign design by Japanese illustrators IC4 Design for UN Women in Egypt was an engaging, visual way to highlight the lack of women in Egyptian male-dominated industries: science, politics and technology. It reminded us a lot of Rod Hunt’s work, and we loved it.

We covered more on this project here.

Me and EU

Another brilliant project we covered earlier this year was Me and EU by Nathan Smith and Sam T Smith.

It's a collection of postcards designed post EU referendum as a symbolic way to stay connected to Europe. The project was created weeks after Brexit was decided as a means of creating unity where hurt and disappointment flowed. The postcards were sent out across all 27 EU countries on the trigger date of Article 50. The postcards were designed by various creatives across the UK.

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Pro EU anti-Brexit campaign

This Brexit-based campaign was rolled out whilst British voters were making a decision on the EU referendum. The Anti-Brexit poster campaign designed by artist Wolfgang Tillmans also included t-shirt designs and images, distributed but Tillmans but also available to download for free on his website. The campaign targeted younger voters who were less likely to take part in the referendum but would ultimately be most affected by it.

The Refugee Nation flag

This symbolic orange and black flag made headlines, marking the participation of the first ever refugee team in the 2016 Olympics. Designed by artist and Syrian refugee Yara Said with The Refugee Nation for Amnesty International, the flag represented a team of ten refugees competing in the Rio Olympics. The colours reflect the colours of lifejackets – the flag serves to highlight the status of refugees as displaced persons.


Avy Search and Rescue Drone

This is rescue drone for refugees who could be in danger travelling across the Mediterranean Sea. Last year alone 3,500 refugees died attempting to cross the sea. This drone is capable of flying long distances, detecting vessels, and can drop life jackets, life bouys, food supplies, medication and communication devices.

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Wedge Dowel (IKEA)

Finally, an IKEA invention that won’t cause high stress levels and potential relationship breakups – the wedge dowel. The small, plastic of wooden fitting with milled grooves all around looks like a threaded screw, but it clicks into pre-drilled holes, making tools and screws unnecessary – hooray! They even have statistics to prove how helpful this is: the wedge dowel lowers the assembly time for a piece of furniture by 50 to 80 percent.

The Pilot translating earpiece

The Pilot translating earpiece by Waverly Labs is the world’s first translating earpiece. Essentially the earpiece translates between users speaking different languages, and it currently works in 15 different languages. It uses two microphones for noise cancellation and translates simultaneously without interruption. It started as a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $5 million dollars for pre-sale.



Olli is a (very cute) self-driving 3D printed electric bus. Claiming to be the first of its kind, the bus can carry up to 12 passengers, meaning it can work as part of a network of smart vehicles or as a single vehicle. The idea behind Olli is to be the first vehicle in a self-driving system to integrate sensors, cognitive intelligence, autonomy, electro-mobility, 3D printing and other technologies.

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Scewo is a device that would prove very helpful for disabled and elderly persons in a city like London, which is full of stairs. Designed to climb stairs, the Scewo allows people in a wheelchair to be more independent when reaching locations that would otherwise be inaccessible. It’s been developed by a group of students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, who use a retractable set of rubber tracks.