Design Week’s biggest product stories of 2022

From air purifying headphones to drone-like flying cars, these were our biggest product stories of the year.

These sex toys are designed to not be hidden away

In February, Morrama designed three sex toys for sexual wellness brand Toy Projects, inspired by the shape of lipstick vibrators. Feedback revealed that most traditional lipstick vibrators are too hard, so Morrama set out to find the right level of softness and flexibility for each of the three unique vibrators. On Point (right) was designed with precision and accuracy in mind, while Morrama founder and creative director Jo Barnard describes Come Round (middle) as “a softer phallic form” suitable for all over massaging. The most inventive of the three is Two Good, which has “rabbit-esque” design features and was the most popular of the collection. “Working as a team and sharing our understanding of pleasure really helped us to design a product that supports Toy Projects’ mission to elevate intimate culture,” says Barnard.

Dyson’s wireless headphones are designed to clean air on-the-go

After decades of research into air quality and development, Dyson released a set of wireless, air purifying headphones called Dyson Zone. Before making its debut as the company’s first wearable product in March, Dyson says there were over 500 prototypes prior to achieving the final design. It works by filtering air via compressors in air cups which is then projected to the nose and mouth along the visor. The device features an electrostatic filter – to capture allergens and particles from industry combustion and brake dust – and a potassium-enriched carbon layer – to capture common city pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – Dyson explains. The four air purification modes, from low to high, were designed to adjust to different levels of exertion and breathing patterns, which can be done automatically.

These electric motorbikes are designed to fight poaching in Africa

Earlier this year, Cake founder Stefan Ytterborn stumbled across a niche purpose for the Swedish electric bike company’s zero emissions product. Rangers in Africa had been using noisy, gasoline-reliant combustion engine motorbikes to patrol parks and track down poachers, which was proving to be both unsustainable and ineffective. Upon realising that Cake’s electric bikes could be a solution to these problems, designers in Sweden began working with the Southern African Wildlife College to tailor the bikes to the rangers’ needs. According to Ytterborn, there were around 60 to 75 points that were reassessed to make the bikes suitable for use on the different terrain. The result was the Kalk AP – an “outback patroller” which can reach speeds of up to 90km/h – and the Ösa AP, which was designed to carry bulky loads.

Tangerine and VW China design flying car

This year was the year of the flying car or, as Volkswagen Group China are calling it, the first urban aircraft prototype. The car manufacturer designed the V.MO (an abbreviation of Vertical Mobility) in collaboration with London-based product design studio Tangerine and revealed that the initial target audience for the vehicle is wealthy Chinese customers who travel between Chinese megacities for business and leisure. The V.MO bares similarities to a drone with its X-wing configuration and eight upward-fixed propellors. It is also fully electric and autonomous, making it a true vision of the future of travel.

PDD collaborates with Trojan Energy to create hidden EV charging points

Since the increase in demand for electric vehicles (EVs), charging points have been popping up all over the UK, but Trojan Energy’s “flat-and-flush” technology sought to bring something new to the table. To rise to the challenges of urban living in areas where “physical space is often at a premium”, PDD engineering design principal Cameron Baker designed the EV chargers to be “visible, but invisible” on the streets. When not in use, the charging points sit unobtrusively within the pavement. Users can connect the charger to their vehicle using an attachable lance as underground ducts connected to cabinets about 100m away channel power to it. The cabinets can send power to 15 charging units at a time

Blond designs edge-taming comb for black hair care brand Ruka

August saw the release of a hair care brand Ruka’s sustainable styling combed designed by Blond specifically for taming edges and baby hairs. Research carried out by the black women-owned business revealed a gap in the market as many black women with curly, coily and wavy hair were using toothbrushes to style their edges due to lack of choice. The limitations of using toothbrushes are their low quality and longevity, meaning more plastic pollution. Blond figured out that making the head of the Ruka EdgeSlick comb detachable – the part that generally needs to be replaced over time – meant a longer life for the product. The double-sided, detachable comb also features two types of bristles – a softer, nylon set intended for shaping and a firmer set for combing and detangling.

Morrama designs the “world’s first” ultrasonic shisha pipe

For its first project in the UAE with Medad Technology, Morrama designed an ultrasonic shisha pipe called the Nesta U-Shisha which seeks to provide a safer alternative to traditional pipes by potentially cutting down cancer risks and carbon emissions. It works by avoiding the need for heating coils (which releases heavy metals into the vapour), instead using ultrasonic vibrations to convert its aerosolised nicotine into a smoke, vapour and metal-free mist. Morrama also attempted to reduce plastic waste by making the product from mostly extruded aluminium. It has Bluetooth connectivity and a mobile app, allowing users to monitor their nicotine intake and get data on their smoking habits.

This manual washing machine is designed to help refugees clean their clothes

A manual washing machine designed to help refugees and communities without access to electricity found a new audience in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis. Nav Sawhney and his team founded the Washing Machine Project in 2018, setting themselves a goal to create a manual washing machine that required less time and effort from the user. The improved version of the machine has a 5kg drum capacity to cater for large families – for which the average is six people – in developing countries. It also features a spin-dry mechanism, which spins at 500 revolutions per minute, an agitator – a mechanism that twists back and forth, rubbing against clothes to remove stains – and a vertical drum, all of which should improve the quality of the wash and reduce the overall time and effort required. According to Sawhney, around 20% of the company’s requests at the time of writing were from people in the UK struggling to afford bills, which resulted in a partnership between The Washing Machine Project and Hillingdon council in London.

This folding charger concept is designed to reduce electronic waste

Seeking to address the problem of electronic waste, Blond designed a folding charger concept which focussed on regenerative design through repairing. The multi-purpose charger allows three products to be charged at the same time would come with a mini screwdriver, allowing users to change parts themselves, according to Blond founder and creative director James Melia. Users would be able to send broken parts back in the same packaging they received the product in and then receive new parts in it too. The transparent design is meant to draw attention to the tech that’s actually inside the product and make users more aware of what they’re throwing away.

Breast health self-check tool wins UK James Dyson Award

In September, an at-home breast scanning device and app design by Innovation design engineering graduates from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art won the UK James Dyson award. After connecting the device to the app through an onboarding process, users are invited to input relevant health information as well as body measurements, providing them with “a personalised map of their torso”, says one of the designers Debra Babalola. Working in a similar way to an ultrasound, the device uses sound waves to take readings and can detect lumps up to 15mm deep in the tissue and as small as 6mm in diameter. The app guides the user through the whole scanning process indicating when to move to the next area and also collects data overtime to flag any changes and advise the user on when to visit the GP.

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