Earlier this year, we put out a call to the design and business communities: What are the best design-driven innovations of the past year? More than 1,100 companies and organizations responded, offering 1,700 nominees in nine categories. An all-star group of 27 judges—from MoMA curator Paola Antonelli to Nicholas Felton of Facebook—worked with us to identify 56 finalists. Presented on the following pages, these standouts represent the creative explosion under way in our economy. (All of the finalists were introduced or came to market in the year ending June 1, 2012.) The winners will be unveiled on October 16 in New York. As you’ll see as you read ahead, they are all worth cheering.
Here, the finalists for the "Service Design" category.
Would people donate more to charity if they saved money at the same time? Givegoods converts donations into coupons redeemable with local merchants. Businesses reach new customers, while consumers have a novel, extra incentive to give. "This gamifies charity," Roberts says. "It’s really a perverse mashup of many great ideas."
UPS My Choice
UPS My Choice gives recipients an unprecedented level of control of the mercurial package-delivery process. You can reroute, sign for, and reschedule delivery online; for a fee, you can narrow delivery windows to two hours—an example of improved service yielding higher revenue.
USAID, Johnson & Johnson, mHealth Alliance, the UN Foundation, and Babycenter
With MAMA, cell phones sub for nurses. An expectant mom registers her due date and then gets timely text messages with tips on, say, swaddling or breast-feeding. MAMA has already rolled out in three countries. "Putting this information into people’s hands is a powerful idea that could affect millions," says Morin
The eco.bottle looks like an unremarkable recycled-paper container for detergent, but it represents a series of supply-chain innovations. Most significantly, the shells pack and ship flat, saving fuel; and unlike the conventional plastic, these containers are both recyclable and compostable.
This business-accounting software suite leapfrogs all others with an impressively intuitive UI that emphasizes clarity. Bank transactions are automatically imported and invoices are managed seamlessly, offering small businesses a real-time view of their P&Ls.
Ben is principal of Fathom, a design and software consultancy located in Boston. He received his doctoral degree from the Aesthetics + Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, where his research focused on combining fields such as computer science, statistics, graphic design, and data visualization as a means for understanding information. In 2011, he won the National Design Award for Interaction Design from the Cooper-Hewitt.
Dave is the CEO and co-founder of Path, a smartphone-based journal that fosters a sense of intimacy by limiting the number of people with whom you can connect. Before starting Path, Morin was the Senior Platform Manager at Facebook where he was a co-inventor of the revolutionary Facebook Platform. He is also an angel investor and advisor.
Melody is the Senior Director, Experience Design Innovation at McDonald’s Corporation. Over the past five years, Roberts has integrated experience design into the practice of innovation at the corporation. Today she leads strategic cross-functional initiatives, manages the experience design team, and consults to disseminate design and innovation best practices company-wide.
A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.