The future is being designed. That is one funny idea. But that’s precisely what the 50 designers, educators, and executives in this year’s Co.Design 50 are doing. The Co.Design editors have chosen a group of people who are pushing the boundaries of their discipline into promising new directions. They are experimenting with new ideas about business, sustainability, and usability. Some work with brands that are familiar today; others, we expect, will become household names in the future. Significantly, they’re all masterful collaborators. And what unites all of them is that their projects will affect not only how we live today but also what life might look like just a few years down the line. Click here for an infographic overview and here part 1, 2, 4, 5.
Part aesthete, part madcap scientist, the Paris-based designer’s wide-ranging innovations include a futuristic marble church interior; a mysterious screen that turns weather forecasts into a digital painting; and a green-roofed, vaguely treelike Wi-Fi kiosk.
John Löfgren, Jonas Pettersson and Petrus Palmér
Founders, Form Us With Love
The straightforward approach of this Swedish trio embraces both raw materiality and a DIY playfulness. Case in point: the Bento chair, whose four parts arrive flat-packed for easy assembly, no tools or screws required.
Creative and managing director, Dalton Maag
Maag led the design of a new universal typeface for Nokia that works across a mind-melting array of devices and languages. Nokia Pure looks as good in Cyrillic as it does in Tamil—and saved Nokia from the massive headaches that can result when you try to design for hundreds of cultures at once.
Cofounder and chief designer, Path
Path is designed to be an intimate, homey social network, almost an antidote for those with Facebook fatigue. It works. Mierau has set a high-water mark for app design, based on simple user insights. For instance, layered menus may be common, but few people use them; so Path is centered on a single screen.
Associate professor, MIT
Director, MIT Media Lab Fluid Interfaces Group
Educators and curators
Maes, a legendary teacher, helped invent the idea of socially curated content discovery. Today, as the head of the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group, she’s inspiring a new generation to invent more novel, seamless computer interfaces.
Australian-born, Amsterdam-based artist and self-described "body architect" McRae is obsessed with using technology to transform human flesh. She has created touch-augmented electronic tattoos and artificial skin out of plumbers’ tubes. Now she is teaming with biologist Sheref Mansy to make "Swallowable Parfum"—a pill to turn the user’s sweat into a unique (and pleasant) scent.
Kate and Laura Mulleavy
The Mulleavy sisters have taken their look and fashion cred well beyond the runway, designing costumes for Black Swan and knitwear for Olympic athletes. Most recently, they’ve become costumers for the stage, creating works for the New York City Ballet and the L.A. Philharmonic’s production of Don Giovanni.
The Innovation By Design Awards on October 16 will celebrate the controversial ideas, new products, business ventures, and wild ideas highlighted everyday on Co.Design. Award Winners in nine categories will be unveiled at the event. Register today.
A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.