Audi revs up the shortlist for Designs of Substance

Audi Design Foundation has announced the eight design nominations shortlisted for the Designs of Substance award, which this year focuses on design that improves the ‘quality of life’ for residents of Brazil’s impoverished shanty towns (favelas).

This is the first year of the DOS and is one of a raft of design initiatives that will be unveiled by Audi over the forthcoming months. Final candidates were selected from a pool of 140 second-year design undergraduates studying at Brunel University. The judges included Seymour Powell director Richard Seymour, Motivation founder David Constantine and Hemingway Design founder Wayne Hemingway. The idea for the Designs of Substance award was devised by Jody Chapman, a trustee at Audi Design Foundation and a design alumnus of Brunel University.

The designs nominated echo the ‘sustainability, pride of ownership and empathy’ inherent in the brief. However, Michael Farmer, manager of the Audi Design Foundation, thinks many people hold stereotypical notions about life in these Brazilian ghetto communities, so a by-product of DOS could be the debunking of myths about life in the favelas. ‘People within the favelas are not necessarily poor. For instance, many people within the favelas have DVD players,’ claims Farmer.

Michael Lam’s Tread Safely tackles walking safety within favelas, which are often situated on steep slopes because the land is considered worthless for commercial construction. As Farmer explains, ‘In favelas, much of the area is covered in concrete, so when it rains the water slides into the mud. The torrents make it very difficult for people to negotiate the hills. These tyres allow them to climb the slopes; they also create steps that allow the water to run away more effectively.’

To ensure the students created designs that chimed with real favela living, a duo of special advisers from Brazil gave the undergraduates key insights. The consultants intervened wherever they deemed the designs impractical, a process that Farmer believes is useful for the students, as it simulates one of the pressures designers experience in the commercial marketplace.

Brunel University gave the students seven days to respond to the brief, ‘suspending the curriculum’ to allow them to take part. Students were also made aware that their final designs would form part of their exam grades.

Participants were encouraged to submit two ideas. The 280 submissions where then whittled down to 60, which were subsequently reduced to the final eight. The finalists have been given 12 weeks to create their designs.

As ‘unofficial chair’ of the adjudication meeting, Farmer admits that the selection process was exhaustive and could have been simplified. However, he is pleased with the overall outcome as ‘the foundation is about taking risks’.

Audi plans to audit the production of this year’s DOS award on 28 June, to establish which elements of the event were successful. Farmer believes that conclusions from this meeting will inform the shape of next year’s event.


• Jennifer Cox – Saco da Bala – backpack that makes carrying goods on uneven roads easier

• Ryan Fenton – FVTV – A device that allows favela residents to hold virtual discussions about local issues via an existing TV channel

• Michael Lam – Tread Safely – used car tyres make it safer to negotiate muddy slopes

• Matt Longbottom – Illuminate – ambient, non-directional lighting that requires no mains connection

• Kate Reeves – Ceiling Sleeper – portable bed that attaches to the ceiling

• Maria De Ryck – Leque – A collapsible screen that can be made from local materials

• Peter Legg – Arte de Favelas – home-made souvenirs sold in recycled cigarette packs

• Nathan Murphy – Hanging wall garden – self-irrigating planters that enable residents to grow herbs and plants on the exterior of their home

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