Quick! It’s the final week to catch the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2011 (BIDOY) at the Design Museum. It’s an opportunity to see a selection of good design (at least according to the jury) in Architecture, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Interactive, Product and Transport. Plus it’s free and as my friend always says ‘if it’s free it’s for me’!

The first thing that caught my eye was the exhibition display by David Kohn Architects and the banners and graphics by Multistorey, it made the whole thing come together nicely not distracting from the work:

Then, of course, I went straight for the books.

I’ve loved Four Corners since I came across their ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ at the Tate Britain shop years ago. They’re known for the Four Corners Familiars collection, a series of books where contemporary artists are asked to produce a new edition of a classic novel or short story. My favourite is definitely their Dracula designed by John Morgan using a different typeface for each character all in use at the time of the book’s original publication and bound in yellow book cloth similar to the first UK edition.

Even though I’d seen Supergraphics around I really didn’t know much about Unit Editions so that was a great find. They produce absolutely beautiful books ‘for graphic designers by graphic designers’. Probably the most exciting typography I’ve seen all year, my new favourite publishers.

And my all time favourite publishers, Visual Editions who make the books I hope to design one day. They manage to create a unique reading experience using words and pictures while exploring the Book Arts tradition in extreme and innovative ways. The fact that they make it commercially and so successfully makes me very, very happy.

My favourite VE book is ‘Tree of Codes’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, simply mind blowing in every way.

Up next, one of my top 5 designers and book design superhero Irma Boom with her Biography in Books. Great surprise that she was nominated for the catalogue of her own retrospective exhibition. She created a tiny 704 pages book at 2 inches high, 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Why so small?

The book is small because whenever I make a book, I start by making a tiny one. Usually I make five, six or seven for each book, as filters for my ideas and to help me to see the structure clearly. I have hundreds of those small books, and am so fond of them. I’ve always wanted to make one for publication, but no one has ever wanted to do it. And I thought, well, this time, I can.

Her website has sadly been under construction for years but there’s a very good video of her work HERE.

IKEA’s amazing 140 page coffee-table baking book presented in a very visually unique and spectacular way. Called “Hembakat är Bäst(Homemade is Best). By Forsman & Bodenfors, Art directed by Staffan Lamm and Christoffer Persson. I hear it won the Graphics award, well deserved!`

IKEA – Homemade is Best. from Forsman & Bodenfors on Vimeo.

This is my favourite nomination and one that made me very proud. It’s curator Morag Myerscough who designed the LCC’s Power of Ten Summer Shows last year in 2010 (in which the Reading Room took part ) and again this year in 2011 (the Reading Room at it again). I can attest first hand that Morag changed the way the students interact with the space in campus, all the signage and lettering she created for the show has improved navigation and made the space warmer and welcoming to visitors. She also conceived the outside area of campus previously unused and now a busy spot with benches and tables next to the shipping containers that house exhibitions curated by students throughout term time. She’s made the LCC a better place so thanks for that  Morag!

Stephen Powers (aka ESPO) ‘A Love Letter for You’ is a mural project in Philadelphia about the complexities and rewards of relationships. ESPO and his crew painted more than 50 murals along the elevated train along Market Street in West Philadelphia (US of A) sponsored by a $260,000 grant from the Council. His lettering and scripts influenced by old signage is a massive influence for me. I go past his love letter to London every day ‘Let’s adore and endure each other’ on Great Eastern St and it makes me smile every time. I thought it was a bit of a shame that they chose to display his work on screen as a slide-show, I felt the small scale didn’t make the work any justice but I suppose graffiti is not easy to display.

Amplify Chandelier, FuseProject for Swarovski. I was very impressed by the simple construction: amplifying a single crystal using a low energy LED light and paper shade to recreate the illusion of a chandelier, maximum effect with the minimum amount of materials and energy. Mies Van Der Rohe would be proud!

Wow, just wow. This was the Architecture winner and (again) one of my favourites. The open air library by Karo-Architekten in Magdeburg, Germany. The project started 5 years ago when the village community staged an intervention in a public space that used to house a public library, a 1:1 scale model was built with the community’s help using beer crates and the residents donated over 20,000 books to get the open air library started. All the shelves are open and everyone is free to borrow books 24h a day.

It links to my dissertation and the idea of people getting together to build a local library to share and distribute books (based on trust) amazes me. The actual construction is stunning surely one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe, really hope I can visit when I go see my friend Gloria in Heidelberg this year!.

All in all it was a good show, if you read design blogs regularly  you’ll have probably seen all the work already but it was still nice to see it in person. Anything I would change? They should definitely consider a student category next year, eh!.

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