Design and sport

Design and sport have a constant, evolving and sometimes controversial relationship.

Designed To Win
An Urban Salon-designed ‘chute’ leads visitors into exhibition

The Design Museum’s Designed to Win exhibition looks to tell the design stories that have made athletes faster, safer and more efficient.

The exhibition, designed by Urban Salon, opens with bamboo ‘chute,’ an effective evocation of velodromes, running tracks and sports courts.

Designed To Win

From this corridor graphics by Studio Fernando Gutierrez direct the visitors outwards into areas including Sports and Fashion, Training and Safety, and Sporting Controversies.

Having taken a largely direct display approach, the most striking thing is the amount on display – more than 100 pieces of sporting equipment, and clothing from over 30 different sports.

Designed To Win
Rugby wheelchair

A wheelchair designed for rugby is an eye catching piece, battle-scarred and unforgiving, with a reinforced but pockmarked bumper, it seems to owe more to the design of war then sport.

The evolution of racing bikes to feather-light carbon fibre machines is told well and cycling fans can see Chris Boardman’s bikes in both the Sporting Bicycles and the Sporting Controversies sections.

Visitors can learn how some bizzare cycles were designed on battle lines drawn between the World Cycling Hour Record and governing body Union Cycliste.

Designed To Win
Bikes big and small

As cycle teams innovated many improvements were withdrawn or outlawed, as officials looked to reconcile unfair advantages.

This has often been the story in arguably one of the most design-led sports, motorsport, which is represented here with Rubens Barrichello’s Williams FW33 F1 car, and Audi’s R18 E-Tron Quattro, which this year became the first hybrid car to win the 24 hour Le Mans race.  

Designed To Win
Williams FW33 F1 car

It seems that some concession has been made to British sport; the bobsleighs on display are the current Team GB two man Bobsleigh, and the Team GB two man bob’ from 1964, used at the Innsbruck, Austria Winter Olympics – the only UK gold in the sport to date.

There were two time keeping inertactives billed. One a starting block running track, and the other an installation to demonstrate improvements in stopwatch technology.

Designed To Win
A rather scary ice-hockey uniform

At your finger tips, a very rudimentary stopwatch, in your line of site a film showing any one of three races. You can start and stop the timer as the runners appear to set off and cross the line, although there’s no audible starting gun, which makes things difficult.

Designed To Win
Cricket and Formula One

Sally Gunnell’s 1992 Olympic gold medal winning 400m hurdles performance was supposed to be clocked at 53.23 but I hit 52.87, while I made Usain Bolt slower – his 2008 Olympic Gold time 9.68 instead of 9.56. A victory for the redemptive power of design in the face of human error then.

Designed to Win is at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1, from 26 July-18 November

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