The design companies that caught our eye this year showed a willingness to grapple with some of the most complex problems of our time, from waste to cryptocurrency. Others made the list for simple, but indispensable, design solutions, including ergonomic keyboards, lightning-fast running shoes, and phone booths that make noisy open offices just a little more tolerable.
For vaporizing endurance running with shoes that reset the sport
Nike set the sports world ablaze when runners wearing versions of its Vaporfly shoes shattered marathon records. The shoes, which have carbon fiber plates and advanced foam that let runners rebound as much as 4% of their energy, were so fast, they were nearly banned from global competition. Now, Nike is capitalizing on the technology and is releasing different versions for marathon runners, everyday runners, and basketball players.
For marching no-code web design into e-commerce
This tool, which makes it possible to build apps and sites without any coding experience, has been around for a few years, but 2019 was a breakout: The company announced a $72 million Series A round in August, and a new milestone of 45,000 users.
For expressing its essence in its flagship Roastery stores and brand overhaul
Not only did the coffee giant remake its brand—no small undertaking, for a company that has 31,000 stores—it also opened up its biggest store ever. The Chicago outpost serves as an example of Starbucks’s new experience-focused “roastery” strategy.
4. Form Us With Love
For pushing partners to sustainable solutions, such as adaptable office furniture
Form Us With Love has been beating the sustainability-through-industrial-design drum for a while, but what makes the Stockholm-based firm notable is its model for doing so: The company typically collaborates with clients or partners (including Ikea) and pushes them toward greener designs. This year saw the production of wood pulp acoustic tiles, an office furniture line designed to adapt and grow to avoid excessive waste, and, recently, a brand of green home goods.
5. The Weather Channel
For presenting storms in immersive mixed reality
The Weather Channel debuted a truly wild vision for the future of broadcasting this year. The company has been investing in AR experiences that anchors can insert themselves into for effect. It’s an ambitious technical design program that offers a new, visceral way of communicating the effects of climate change. It also makes for innovative live entertainment.
For exploring design’s role in overproduction, from e-waste to deforestation
Formafantasma, based in Amsterdam, conducted a years-long investigation into e-waste and turned it into a multimedia documentary and exhibition that exposed design’s colossal contribution to global carbon emissions. The firm is now planning a similar investigation into the timber industry.
For stretching niches with vertical mice and customizable gaming controllers
Logitech, a company known for exploring cool design projects, deserves recognition for the way it is delving into surprising forms of media and content creation with tools for streaming and gaming. After releasing a vertical mouse a couple of years ago, Logitech came out recently with an adaptive gaming controller and a fully ergonomic keyboard.
8. Bakken & Bæck
For demystifying crypto and blockchain products
The European digital design studio specializes in making complex industries accessible to everyday users, from real estate to finance. The studio has designed the interface for Kron, a smart investment platform in Norway, and three services for the digital currency exchange Coinbase, including Coinbase Wallet, an easy-to-use app for storing cryptocurrency.
For giving open-office workers a quiet place of their own with its phone booths
Room isn’t the only phone booth company out there, but we think its product is the most sustainable, inexpensive, and well-designed. The company goes a little further in making lemonade out of the open-office lemons.
For reimagining airline service as a waste-free class
2019 was a year in which many people woke up to the environmental impact of flying. PriestmanGoode, which has been working in the transit/mobility space for a long time, debuted the first waste-free meal service for airplanes. It’s part of a new show at London’s Design Museum, called Get Onboard, which explores waste in the airline industry.
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