Dyson, Audi, Progress: prizes for design that does good

It’s design prize time: the best of Dubai Design Week’s Global Grad Show got the Progress Prize, the Audi Innovation Award went to a VR application, and Aamer Siddiqui and Ali Asgar from the American University in Sharjah had one of the two runners-up places in the James Dyson Award.


We previewed the James Dyson Award a few weeks ago, when Siddiqui and Asgar were named the national winners for their clever airport/airplane wheelchair that slips over a standard airline seat.

The simplified Air Chair: no electric motor, not foldable

The Award, which is run by James Dyson’s charitable trust, is open to current and recent design engineering students. It challenges young people to “design something that solves a problem”, which is just about perfect as a description of the winner and both runners-up – their entries beat thousands of others from 27 different countries.

The top prize (and £30,000) went to Nicolas Orellana, 36, and Yaseen Noorani, 24, MSc students at Lancaster University, for a spinning mini wind turbine that can capture wind travelling in any direction – perfect for urban situations, where wind trapped between buildings becomes unpredictable.

The two runners-up each get cash prizes of £5,000. A team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands came up with a device to help diagnose malaria; and the AUS team had the Air Chair, a portable chair to assist wheelchair users in using airplanes without needing to leave their seats.

The device is narrow enough to fit down standard airplane corridors, and it fits over a standard airplane seat locking on to the metal bar beneath it. It uses the existing seatbelt (which also provides extra stability) and does not hinder access to the inflight entertainment.

The next step is to design a prototype that can be tested in commercial flights – and thereafter pitched to customers and the airline industry.

Audi Innovation Award

The Audi Innovation Award went to Elias Soueidi for his R2R Ruin to Reality project, which perhaps should more properly be called R2VR since it allows access to virtual 3D models of historical monuments, buildings and landmarks. Soueidi, an architect/designer in Beirut, believes the loss of cultural sites affects the identity of people from the region; experiencing what used to be there will allow them to “reconnect with who they are”.

Elias Soueidi

R2R has obvious regional relevance given the depredations wrought by war and Daesh. The 3D models live on an updated server, the user gets a VR headset, and “for the first time history will be perceived, conceived and visualised”.

Selected from over 65 submissions from across the Middle East, Soueidi wins a trophy, a trip to the Audi factory in Ingolstadt, and a useful $25,000 worth of consultancy to cover development essentials such as IP registration, legal counselling and business development.

R2R is a useful extension of the kind of more traditional ‘design’ that usually features in awards – though last year’s winner, Jamal Alsharkas’ EZ move, was an intelligent mobility device that acts as a kind of digital version of a seeing-eye dog. The year before the first winner of the Audi Innovation Award was Sahar Madanat’s One-Handed Tableware Set, which is perhaps a bit more predictable.

But actually all three winners are distinguished by very high functionality and equally solid public interest credentials, which is exactly what you want from design – something that works well (and looks good) while delivering real value (not just decoration).

The award, the first of its kind in the region and open to anyone residing in the GCC and most Levant countries, does indeed aim to improve the way we live. The theme for this year’s award, the third edition of the annual competition, was ‘connectivity’; designers were invited to respond to “technology’s increasing ability to provide a means through which users and the products and services they interact with are able to identify preferences and behaviour“.

In second place was Andrea Sensoli with CyRCLE, a 360-degree communal display space for meetings, gatherings or entertainment. A rather different take on space picked up third prize; Abdhul Hazeeb’s Connect to Thrive project is an enclosed interior space proposed as a place of solitude and calm somewhere between home and workplace.

Progress Prize

The other design award worthy of applause is the Progress Prize for the best Global Grad Show project. The winner – from a shortlist of 11, whittled down from an initial 150 selections – was Twenty, a collection of dehydrated household products designed by Mirjam de Bruijn from Design Academy Eindhoven.

Like all the best ideas, it’s simple, practical and does good. Most household cleaning products, shampoos, body washes and the like are made up from at least 80 percent water; so 80 percent of the effort of transporting the products is actually transporting water, which adds bulk, weighs a lot and is widely accessible via a kitchen tap. Twenty proposes a radical simplification of the production and transportation of those products by using a set of compact capsules; place one in a bottle, add tap water, shake, and you have a cleaning liquid of the same quality and consistency as the average store-bought variety – and without that fuel intensive, carbon-emitting shipping overhead.

Mirjam says she designed Twenty “for people like myself who really want to be sustainable but also have busy lives and need products that are simple, economical, easy to use and fit into their lifestyle.

“I want Twenty to become the new standard and I’m working closely with my university to refine the product while talking to producers and retailers to make sure we adopt the best strategy in taking Twenty to market.”

Brendan McGetrick, Director and Curator of Global Grad Show said, “What makes Twenty exceptional is that it is based on such a smart analysis of something that we all need and in reality, take for granted, and then responds with a proposal that’s both practical and beautiful.”

We like that logo and the packaging too … More information about Twenty is here.


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