Remarkable product designs of 2021 that champion innovation and sustainability

Here is STIR’s round-up of the most inventive and functional product and industrial designs of 2021, from a dissolving soap container to lighting that sanitises public spaces.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Dec 17, 2021

With bright colours, creative forms, rethought solutions, enhanced materiality, and recycled or upcycled materials, product and industrial designers from the world over are leaning increasingly into change, for the better. STIR rounds up the top products of 2021 that embody emotion, innovation and ergonomic design; are outlined by sustainable measures, and most of all, champion functionality and reflect global needs and trends.

1. Ohmie Lamp by Krill Design is the world’s first 3D printed lamp made of orange peels

Ohmie Lamp designed by Krill Design | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
Ohmie Lamp designed by Krill Design Image: Courtesy of Krill Design

The Milan-based startup Krill Design turns scrap into a statement piece with Ohmie Lamp, claiming to be the world's first lamp 3D printed from discarded orange peels, and even smells like delicate orange cookies when in use. This is a fine example of how it is possible to enable wholesome design from food waste and be wholly compostable at the end of its life. The base biopolymer guarantees that the lamp won't degrade with normal use, be long-lasting, and not break down with water exposure. The finished body is made from one continuous strand of the filament extruded through a 3D printer, ensuring a lightweight (both visually and in terms of weight) design that avoids excessive or any kind of waste during production.

2. SoapBottle is a dissolving, sustainable packaging for personal care products

SoapBottle becomes slippery on exposure to water and it has a reusable metal clip provide to secure its liquid contents | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
SoapBottle becomes slippery on exposure to water and it has a reusable metal clip provide to secure its liquid contents Image: Courtesy of Jonna Breitenhuber

Developed by Berlin-based product designer Jonna Breitenhuber, SoapBottle provides an eco-friendly alternative to conventional, single-use plastic containers for liquid soaps. The bottle is made entirely from the natural materials used in manufacturing soap - to eliminate waste in its product life cycle. With repeated use, the personal care product will gradually dissolve over time, leaving only remnants that can be recycled into liquid soap or detergents. The product design presents an ingenious two-in-one solution that benefits the environment while catering to those who enjoy using liquid soap.

3. We dreamt about an Urban Sun floating above our cities: Daan Roosegaarde

Urban Sun by Studio Roosegaarde | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
Urban Sun by Studio Roosegaarde Image: Courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde

Urban Sun - by Studio Roosegaarde's Dutch designer and artist Daan Roosegarde - is a science backed installation that uses far-UVC light which claims to sanitise upto 99.9 per cent of coronavirus. The open air installation in no way promises to get rid of the virus completely, or offers itself as a fool-proof solution to curb its spread. What it does, instead, is reduce the risk of infection outdoors and inspire hope for a better future, where people can meet outside again freely, bravely, safely.

4. Liǎn is an inflatable mask that uses artificial intelligence to mirror emotions

Inspired from ‘biàn liǎn’, a form of traditional Chinese opera art, the mask inflates in specific places to reflect the user’s mood and emotions | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
Inspired from ‘biàn liǎn’, a form of traditional Chinese opera art, the mask inflates in specific places to reflect the user’s mood and emotions Image: Courtesy of Jann Choy

Designed by UK-based multidisciplinary designer, Jann Choy, Liǎn draws from Chinese face-changing opera art and online avatars, to explore the relationship between our online personas and offline selves, blooming at the intersection of science, technology, the human body, and human emotions. Composed almost entirely of silicone, Liǎn responds to the wearer’s emotions in real-time using code and soft robotics. The wearable design physically inflates in specific areas using code relayed to locally placed sensors, making for signatory representations of the user’s moods and state of mind.

5. 'Sunseeker' by Vantot rethinks static street-lights while dynamically following the sun

Inspired from ‘biàn liǎn’, a form of traditional Chinese opera art, the mask inflates in specific places to reflect the user’s mood and emotions | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
Akin to a sunflower, the fixture too tracks the sun's movement across the horizon to optimise gain of solar power Image: Max Kneefer

Eindhoven-based innovators Vantot’s 'Sunseeker' is an energy-neutral illumination solution for public spaces, programmed with the intention of making cities smarter, sustainable, and safer with the help of solar energy. Merging technology, a functional aesthetic language, and responsive and responsible design principles, the lighting design is fully solar-powered, literally seeking out the sun to track its motion, in order to charge itself during the day and deliver clean energy by night.

6. Piero Lissoni rethinks design fundamentals of a toothbrush with ‘Regenerate’

The toothbrush is housed in a cylindrical, completely recyclable packaging | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
The toothbrush is housed in a cylindrical, completely recyclable packaging Image: Courtesy of TheHut.com

A collaboration between Lissoni & Partners and Regenerate Enamel Science, the Regenerate toothbrush combines substance, style, and sustainability in a minuscule, teal-coloured volume. “I think working on a ‘finished’ object like a toothbrush is a little akin to designing a pencil: it’s almost impossible to design a new one, but we tried,” states Italian designer and architect, Piero Lissoni. Made out of 93 per cent recycled, regenerated plastic, formed and shaped by injection moulding, the design attempts to encompass its transformation and regeneration into yet another object at the end of its life. The ultra-thin antibacterial filaments are also infused with silver phosphate glass technology that inhibits bacterial growth on the filaments for up to 90 days, and is as good as new upon washing after every use.

7. Tom Dixon Studio fashions HYDRO chair with endlessly recyclable aluminium

HYDRO is made from 100 per cent recyclable aluminium | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
HYDRO is made from 100 per cent recyclable aluminium Image: Tom Dixon

HYDRO has been designed by British designer Tom Dixon, revered for his instantly iconic designs of furniture, lighting, and accessories, in close collaboration with one of the world’s largest aluminium producers, Hydro. The chair design's uniqueness lies in its succinct materiality – HYDRO is made from aluminium that can be recycled endlessly without losing its properties (when done right). This, therefore, makes it an ideal material when designing for a circular economy, getting more for less.

8. KiteX draws from looping kites to create a portable wind turbine in Denmark

KiteX is a lighter, mobile alternative to conventional wind turbines | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
KiteX is a lighter, mobile alternative to conventional wind turbines Image: Courtesy of KiteX

Dubbed the 'Wind Catcher', the lightweight design by Copenhagen-based firm is a revolutionary portable wind turbine that is intended to serve as a substitute for fuel-consuming generators. Harnessing the power of the wind, it draws inspiration from looping kites in the design of its overhung rotors. Through its design, KiteX sought to devise a lighter, more mobile alternative to conventional wind turbines, which they viewed as bulky and difficult to install. Wind Catcher's projected user base tends towards campers, RV users, and those in need of emergency backup power fuelled by renewable energy.

9. The Looking Glass Portrait brings 3D holography and design to your palm

The Looking Glass Portrait by the Looking Glass Factory | Best product designs of 2021 | STIRworld
The Looking Glass Portrait by the Looking Glass Factory Image: of The Looking Glass Factory

Designed by the Looking Glass Factory, this "memory machine" is touted to be the world’s first digital holographic display, adding a dynamic angle to still photos. The Looking Glass Portrait allows you to showcase your photographs in 3D, letting you view them from different angles without the need for special 3D glasses or equipment. The object has a 7.9 inch display, with the ability to add photos from your phone using its portrait mode to create 3D images using that depth of field, or by using multiple camera pictures stitched together and even actual 3D models. The product design is powered by re-designed proprietary optics and dramatically improved ambient anti-reflective properties, making the images ‘float’ out of the device. An additional edge: a 3.5mm audio jack to enable speaker or peripheral device connectivity for videographic presentation, allowing your holograph to ‘talk’.

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