Apps invade the Brit Design of the Year Awards

Despite their name, the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year is the annual competition to find the best designed products around the world. For me, it's an excellent opportunity to see the coolest and most innovative projects under one roof... But why should I be blogging about it?

Last years edition featured Amazon’s Kindle and I joked about having the iPad shortlisted in the 2011 edition. Well, six of the exclusive panelists decided that the Apple tablet shouldn't miss the appointment. But what stroke me most in my visit last weekend to the exhibition at the Design Museum in London was the prominence of mobile applications. 

Nominated in the “interactive” category - one of the seven areas the award covers along with architecture, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport - it was easy to spot iOS apps running on iPads and two on N8 Nokias. Don't get me wrong, the projects the other projects nominated in the category are pretty awesome, but I'm bringing you the apps that made the cut for the prestigious award. 

The Elements: A Visual Exploration by Touch Press (nominated by Patrick Burgoyne) is still one of the coolest interactive coffee table type app available on the App Store. Praised by Jobs himself in a keynote last year, I love it for making interesting something I found quite abstract in my chemistry lessons in school. Using examples of everyday objects of the elements on the table with rotating photographies is a great way to get kids and adults engaged.

Angry Birds by Rovio Mobile (nominated by Matt Jones) was demoed on an iPad although it's available under almost any platform under the sun. The curators highlighted its expansion as a global phenomenon that covers live events - such as the Angry Birds Day flash mob - and merchandising featuring its characters. Sadly, the video game didn't win the top award, but “in terms if global attention commanded by a design, it can’t be beaten in 2010”.

Flipboard by Mike McCue and Evan Doll (nominated by Patrick Burgoyne and Jeremy Leslie) was featured for successfully connecting social networks and presenting your own custom magazine on an iPad. The fact that Flipboard unifies all your Internet feeds and displays them in a usable manner, without the need to scan every website, is probably one of the reasons why it won the Interactive Design Award. Well deserved!

The Guardian Eyewitness by The Guardian Technology Team (nominated by Simon Esterson) is window to unbelievable photographies of what's happening in the world part of the newspaper’s series. I personally didn't value it when I first tried it, as it's more about the content than the app itself. However, this nomination recognises the hard work and willingness to adapt to new media formats, which I think it's a great effort by a traditional print newspaper.

Reactable Mobile by Reactable Systems (nominated by Dee Halligan) is the iPad version of the circular music instrument developed at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. If that doesn't ring a bell, Björk used the real thing in her concerts. I love how the large touch screen of the iPad allows you to control those wheels instead of the approach taken in most synth apps on the App Store - which replicate the look of the physical object. Available on a multitude of platforms, I love how this concept allows anyone to crate sounds and experiment with melodies without any technical training. 

The Nokia N8 also managed to score two entries in this year’s edition. The Paint installation is an interactive wall imagined by the London studio Greyworld for the launch of the device. Using an impressive LED wall, visitors were asked to take a picture of themselves and splash a bucket of virtual paint and see it dripping. 

The Cellscope project uses the mobile phone paired with telemicroscopy to connect doctors and patients wherever they are. The system is supposed to an easy way to provide data updates so doctors can change treatments and analyse feedback remotely. The nomination was supported by the cross-discipline collaboration as it also features a stop-motion animation film about the system.

I encourage everyone to check out the other nominees in all categories. Ranging from the London Boris bikes cycle hire scheme to benches made of recycled cardboard, they all showcase creativity, spirit of innovation and respect to design principles. After seeing the exhibition in person, I went home feeling lucky to be able to have with me some of those products and in many cases, downloaded for free.