What went wrong at the Designs of the Year 2017

This year's exhibition at the Design Museum is a disappointment – not because of the work but because of the way it's displayed.


Arguably much like the museum itself, this year's Designs of the Year exhibition at London's Design Museum seems to care more about its own space than its contents.

The exhibition lives within rather wonderfully unusual textured 'caves', created by architecture practice Carmody Groake using a pulp of recycled newspaper. These make a real change from the usual flat walls and open spaces of traditional gallery spaces.

However, the room hosting the exhibition in the bowels of the old QEII centre in Kensington isn't big enough to have both these and give enough room to the exhibits themselves. Objects are crammed together and there's no space for the larger objects we've grown used to – cars or all-but-the-tiniest dioramas and models of architectural nominees. There appears to not even be space for the Scewo wheelchair that can go up and down stairs.

I've felt this way about the museum as a whole since it opened just over a year ago. Its open, full-height central atrium is a fantastic piece of architecture – but it pushes all of the gallery spaces to the back of the building, crushing down the space on offer. The current (and rather brilliant) California exhibition on the ground floor doesn't have this problem, but the Designs of the Year is down a tiny, thin corridor that you'd otherwise assume leads to the toilets. 

It's ironic that a museum dedicated to design fails at what it purports to be about, favouring aesthetics over usefulness.

Conversely, the designs you can actually see at the exhibition are truly excellent (with the possible exception of Kanye West's clothing line). Here's our pick, with descriptions from the museum.

Professional Women Emoji

By: Agustin Fonts, Rachel Been, Mark Davis, Nicole Bleuel and Chang Yang

"Emojis targeting the representation of women in the workforce."


Pro-EU anti-Brexit Campaign

By: Wolfgang Tillmans, Between Bridges

"Anti-Brexit poster campaign designed by artist Wolfgang Tillmans."

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Finding Her

Unit Editions

By: Tony Brook, Adrian Shaughnessy and Patricia Finegan

"Tony Brook, his wife Patricia Finegan and friend Adrian Shaughnessy all love books. They all had frustrations working on books with contemporary publishers, finding them ‘controlling and risk averse’ and not disposed to treating design seriously. So, the trio founded Unit Editions to make new books as well as they can possibly be made."


The Refugee Nation flag

By: Yara Said with The Refugee Nation for Amnesty International

Flag designed by Yara Said to mark the participation of the first ever refugee team in the 2016 Olympics

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Sufferhead Original Stout

By: Emeka Ogboh

An African-inspired stout that has taken over the German market.


Pussyhat Project

By: Krista Suh, Jayna Zweiman, Kat Coyle and Aurora Lady

"The pussyhat is a symbol of support and solidarity for women's rights and political resistance."


Nimuno Loops

By: Anine Kirsten, Max Basler and Jaco Kruger

A flexible tape to allow Lego builders to place their creations on any surface.

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Meet Graham: The only person designed to survive on our roads

By: Patricia Piccinini for Transport Accident Authority (TAC)

Graham is an interactive lifelike sculpture demonstrating human vulnerability and the bodily features that would be needed to withstand a car crash.

Meet Graham also won big at this year's D&AD Awards.