Disappearing packages and desert robots lead Global Grad Show 2021

At this year’s global graduate show, 150 shortlisted projects aim to solve social problems from overworked vaccine providers to short-lived baby shoes.

Disappearing clothes packaging and a seed-planting desert robot are among the shortlisted projects at this year’s Global Grad Show.

Overall 150 projects were revealed from diverse fields, with the overarching focus to “improve lives, support communities and protect the planet”. The projects will be showcased in an online exhibition for 2021.

Reality, a 3D-printed shoe

The graduate show, run by the Art Dubai Group, is now in its seventh year. It invites entries from students around the world, who then compete for funding and mentorship.

While the brief is fairly wide ranging, clear trends emerged at this year’s show. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has prompted students to reflect upon healthcare and patients’ complex needs, while other projects take aim at food waste and scarcity.

Expandable baby shoes and detergent packaging

Bizù baby slipper
Bizù baby slipper

Amelia Sjöberg from Sweden’s Lund University has created The Disappearing Package, a packaging solution made from detergent that dissolves in washing machine. The material provides temporary water resistance and completely dissolves at 40 degrees.

A potential audience for the packaging could be second hand clothes retailers, as the packaging would help eco-conscious buyers wash clothes and recycle packaging at the same time.

Two product design projects focus on footwear. Reality: The Future of Footwear, from Imperial College London, is made from 3D-printed, fully biodegradable nano-cellulose which has “self-healing capabilities”. According to the design team, the shoe is able to regenerate as much as 50% of its surface area after use, which would significantly lengthen its lifespan.

A team of four designers from Belgium’s Howest University has created expandable baby slippers which are designed to grow along with the baby’s feet. The slippers are made from recycled jeans yarn. The Bizù shoes can be used for around a year, which is four times longer than other baby shoes, the team explains.

Designing more personal healthcare solutions

Popo monitors

The way that we care for ourselves and others has changed throughout the pandemic, and a number of the projects are designed to help patients manage their health at home. For example, Popo is a non-invasive glucose monitor for children with diabetes, developed by students at China’s Zhejiang University.

The device analyses patients’ breath rather than blood samples, which is a more traditional way to monitor diabetes. Shaped like a trumpet, the product aims to provide a “safe, fun and practical alternative” to more clinical-seeming medical devices.

De Buysscher’s EEG headset

Xander De Buysscher, from University of Antwerp, has designed a more user-friendly EEG headset for young epilepsy patients which can be used by non-medical professionals to record brain activity. It is similar in ambition to this wearable ECG vest, conceived by Design Partners, which also aims to make medical monitoring a more comfortable and accessible experience.

Meanwhile several vaccine-related projects have been highlighted this year. One future-facing project from a German university aims to streamline the process (and take the pressure off overworked vaccine centre workers) by using a spray-based application. The vaccine could then be absorbed more slowly into the skin, according to the team at Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design.

The future of food


Many designers have recently engaged with the problem of food waste; one particularly complex area has been measuring the lifespan of food. Vorkoster, from Kimia Amir-Moazami, is a smart lid which uses a pH-sensitive film to chart food spoilage through a changing colour system. This provides an alternative to traditional standardised expiry systems (which sometimes have premature expiry dates) and could be part of a “unpackaged future”, Amir-Moazami says.

Meanwhile, a project by Mazyar Etehadi at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation hopes to find a more efficient way to cultivate the landscape. A’seedbot is an autonomous robot that identities fertile areas in the desert. It charges itself via solar panels in the day and then navigates desert terrain at night, planting seeds based on collected data and its navigation system.

To view all the projects, you can visit the Global Grad Show website.

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