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 "Industrial Equipment" category.
Teams Design for Still
Warehouses require a wealth of heavy-duty equipment to deal with myriad containers and pallets. Still invented a system with a single driver device that hooks into six different attachments—a Swiss Army knife for logistics that Wolff calls "beautifully realized."
Everyone has struggled along tightly packed rows at the theater. The sleek Jumpseat is designed to create easy-to-navigate aisles. It’s just 3.5 inches thick, but can support 600 pounds. And it holds the potential to squeeze far more seats, far more comfortably, into one theater.
EyeNetra, MIT, and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
Netra G is the most affordable eye diagnostic ever. Patients peer through a $2 eyepiece at a smartphone app and indicate when shapes line up—thus measuring myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. "This transition to app-based solutions represents so much of what’s happening in the world," says Béhar.
Stents have become common in coronary care, but the devices sometimes stay in the body beyond their useful lives, causing clots and complications. Abbott’s solution: a stent made of plant-derived plastic that dissolves after two years.
Embrace Infant Warmer
Millions of preemies in the developing world die for lack of incubators, which can cost thousands of dollars. The $200 Embrace can turn a 30-minute charge into six hours of stable warmth, due largely to space-age materials. "This is an example of design’s power," says Moggridge, "when brought into the engineering process early."
Yves is a designer, entrepreneur, and sustainability advocate. He is the founder of fuseproject, the San Francisco and New York based design and branding. He is also Chief Creative Officer at Jawbone where his products, brand and communications guidance has built the company into a leader in wearable and audio consumer electronics. His collaborations with renowned partners such as Herman Miller, Jawbone, GE, Puma, Canal+, MINI, Samsung, Issey Miyake, Prada and many others have received international acclaim.
Bill Moggridge is the Director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. He oversees the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Moggridge is credited with designing the first laptop computer, the Grid Compass, in 1981. He describes his career as having three phases, first as a designer, second as a leader of design teams and third as a communicator. [Recently, Bill passed away after a battle with cancer. We will miss him dearly. For our remembrance of him, click here.—Ed.]
Max Wolff is the Director of Design at Lincoln. His extensive luxury and global automotive design experience has taken him from Australia to Asia and America. Wolff previously worked for General Motors, where he held key design positions, including assignments with Cadillac, Holden and GM Daewoo. He will help the Lincoln team expand and enhance its brand lineup, which will include seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years and its first-ever C-segment vehicle.
A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.