Saturday, August 29, 2009


electrolux designlab 2009The eight finalists of this year's Electrolux Design Lab are finally announced. They will compete for the first place in the finals, which will take place in London on September 24, 2009, at 100% Design London. Once again, the jury includes a wide selection of experts like: Nipa Doshi, furniture designer and co-founder of Doshi Levien design studio, David Fisher, Design Director of internationally renowned product design consultancy Seymourpowell, Marisol Manso Cortina, Manager of the Color Design Group at Nissan Design Europe, and Henrik Otto, Senior Vice President of Global Design at Electrolux.

Now. There are several things worth noting. First, we have to remember the brief for this year's competition: Designs for the next 90 years. Having that in mind, I think the students did a great job, despite the controversy when the final 25 were announced. All final projects have that touch of futuristic appliances, some may seem like science-fiction, but of course the discussion is not whether they could be manufactured in the coming years or not. This kind of design exercise, is like any other design brief... the twist is that the technological or social system constraints of today's life are not there. The point is to see how far off (or out of the box) the designers can get when they don't have that kind of restrictions. Some are quite timid to step out into the unknown, some were quite brave and literally went out of this world (See all 25 finalists on flikr).

However, strictly on the aesthetic side of the experiment... I don't expect that future appliances would look like "2009 retro style". I mean, they all look contemporary and stylish to today's standards... or probably by Stanley Kubrik's 2001 standards... but I would like to see how the younger generations imagine the styles of the future. For example, the streamlined style was a response in a time when railroads, and automobiles influenced the perception of modern times being too fast. We now consider a trip on a locomotive to be terribly slow, and yet, we still love streamline designs. So, how do we translate the internet, videoconferencing, mobile phones, "speed dating", text message language, fast food... etc. into an aesthetic style? i.e. how do give a specific shape to hyperreality or whatever "future reality" that comes next?

MeliesDo you remember the times of the "multi grain" food in the 80's? Every food was made with whole grains... it was everywhere! I remember it was also the time when the first "recycled paper" came out, and some people said "This is too much! Now even the paper is multigrain!". Well, with all this "environmental revolution", I believe that a new "hippie-environmentally friendly" aesthetic style will emerge with materials that will clearly show traces of being recycled, more ceramics and less plastic surfaces, of course more terracotta and natural colours instead of plain whites. I don't think that future products will carry on the legacy of styles that were used during these times of mass production... I think that probably the shapes will probably look more like artisan hand crafted objects... I don't know, but our vision on the aesthetics of the future, is like the legendary vision of Georges Méliès for the flight to the moon was back then, I guess.

So, anyway. Here are the eight finalists in no particular order. You can watch the video for each entry and remember to vote for your favourite for the "people's choice award":

1. Cocoon by Rickard Hederstierna, Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden

Watch video: Cocoon

Intelligent food to save the planet
“Cocoon” is a sustainable response to the world’s growing population and its desire to consume meat and fish. Similar to heating popcorn in a microwave, Cocoon prepares genetically engineered and prepackaged meat and fish dishes by heating muscle cells identified by radio frequency identification (RFID) signals. The signals detect the specific dish and then suggest the required cooking time. This process uses science to create food, lifting a burden on the planet by reducing the need for further intensive farming and fishing. The negative effects of this process, including the mass transportation of food around the world, clearing of land and distortion of ecosystems, are then negated.

2. Le Petit Prince by Martin Miklica, Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic

Watch video: Le Petit Prince

One small step for robots, one giant leap for humankind
“Le Petit Prince” is a robotic greenhouse designed to facilitate the future exploration and population of Mars. Le Petit Prince takes care of a plant it carries inside its glass case, which is mounted on top of its four-legged pod. In search of nutrients to care for the plant, the robot is programmed to intuitively learn the optimal method for this process. It also reports its movements and progress to its fellow greenhouse robots via wireless communication so that they can learn from each other.

3. Moléculaire by Nico Kläber, Köln International School of Design, Germany

Watch video: Moléculaire

Print and eat your food
Nico Kläber takes the marriage of science and cooking to a new level with “Moléculaire”, the 3D molecular food printer. Moléculaire is influenced by chefs that scientifically and painstakingly experiment with food and food states to surprise and provoke fresh ideas in cooking. Kläber recognizes that this approach, as it currently exists, requires great skill, time and knowledge. The Moléculaire simplifies the process and acts as a computer numerical control (CNC) food printer for both professional and domestic kitchens. It autonomously prepares basic and otherwise difficult to create two and three dimensional parts of meals. It works with a layer by layer printing process using small particles from diverse ingredients. This provides simplicity, accuracy, repeatability and, of course, great tasting food!

4. Naturewash by Zhenpeng Li, Zhejiang University, China

Watch video: Naturewash

Washing in the great outdoors
“Naturewash” is a waterless washing machine that uses negative ions to wash nano-coated fabrics. Horizontal in shape, the washing machine has three touch screen settings: clean clothes, grass scent and flower scent. A user can lie or sit on Naturewash to clean or refresh the clothes they are wearing. For a more thorough clean, clothes can be placed flat on the washer.

5. Renew by Louis Filosa, Purdue University, USA

Watch video: Renew

Steam cleaning coming to a wall near you
“Renew” is a smart steamer that refreshes and cleans clothes. With two steam blades, Renew “blasts” garments clean. An infrared scanner and radio frequency identification (RFID) gather information about a garment from specifically designed clothing tags. Renew is safe to use and disables the steamer if an unidentified object is detected, such as a hand. An OLED touch screen allows the user to interact with Renew and learn about their clothing. At 25% the size of a current washing machine, Renew conserves space and is made of recycled aluminum and glass.

6. Teleport Fridge by Dulyawat Wongnawa, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Watch video: Teleport Fridge

Beam me up… Scottish ham
Dulyawat Wongnawa envisions a time when the technologies found in science fiction become reality, specifically teleportation. His concept, “Teleport Fridge”, teleports food, eliminating the time and distance a person has to travel to buy fresh groceries or products from a store or farm. Using touch-screen technology as the interface for the teleportation process, the Teleport Fridge simply teleports food to compartments in its refrigeration and freezer units.

7. Water Catcher by Penghao Shan, Zhejiang Sci-tech University, China

Watch video: Water Catcher

Flying in the rain
Penghao Shan has created a product that addresses water shortage. His solution is “Water Catcher”, a flying rain catcher and water purifier. This automated device dispatches small flying balls in the air to catch raindrops. After the raindrops are collected, the balls return to a homing tray that purifies the water for drinking. Once purified, the balls take the drinking water directly to a person to be drunk. The homing tray also reads fingerprints to determine what additives should be added to the water to ensure the drinker optimizes their health.

8. Bifoliate by Toma Brundzaite, Vilnius Academy of Art, Lithuania

Watch video: Bifoliate

Washing dishes is double the fun
Putting away clean dishes from the dishwasher is often a tedious job. That’s why Toma Brundzaite has designed “Bifoliate”, a space-saving, wall-mounted double dishwasher that allows the user to put dirty dishes in one compartment and use the other as a shelf for clean dishes. The dishwasher uses ultrasonic wave technology to clean making it more efficient and eco-friendly than today’s dishwashers.

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