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Lexus Design Award exhibition displays "power of design" at Milan design week

Promotion: car brand Lexus displayed the four winners of this year's Lexus Design Award, including a jacket that turns fog into drinking water and a humidifier made from ceramic waste, at Milan design week 2023

Displayed at Superstudio Più in Milan's Tortona Design District, the Lexus Design Award exhibition marked the first public reveal of the competition's winning designs, which were created in response to the theme named Design for a Better Tomorrow.

Launched in 2013, Lexus Design Award is an annual competition that rewards projects that provide innovative design solutions to societal issues.

The winning works were selected by a judging panel made up of MoMA senior curator Paola Antonelli, designer Karim Rashid and chief branding officer at Toyota Motor Corporation, Simon Humphries.

Lexus aims for the next generation of creators to consider how their creative concept puts into practice the brand's three key principles: Anticipate, Innovate and Captivate. The designs must anticipate global challenges to societies, envision inventive ways to reach a sustainable future, and enhance the happiness of all.

Each year, the winners of the competition have the opportunity to prototype, develop and improve their ideas under the mentorship of world-class creators.

This year's mentors included solar designer Marjan van Aubel, sound artist Yuri Suzuki, designer Joe Doucet and architect Sumayya Vally.

Fog-X is a jacket that transforms into an umbrella-like shelter
Fog-X is a jacket designed to transform into an umbrella-like shelter that captures fog and converts it into drinking water

Amongst the winning works was Swedish designer Pavels Hedström's Fog-X, a jacket designed to transform into an umbrella-like shelter that captures fog and converts it into drinking water.

Designed for use in arid environments, the device can produce up to ten litres of water per day and is paired with a mobile application that guides the user to the best locations for fog collection.

"During the mentorship programme, the design of Fog-X became more accessible and user-friendly in all ways," said Hedström. "After three months of development, it turned from a heavy oversized backpack into a light durable jacket empowered by technology that would allow it to operate with its full potential, making fresh water accessible even in the driest deserts."

Fog-X also won the Your Choice Award, where Lexus invited the public to vote for an idea that best represents Design for a Better Tomorrow.

Jiaming Liu with his humidifier
Jiaming Liu designed a humidifier made from recycled ceramic waste

A humidifier made from recycled ceramic waste by Chinese industrial designer Jiaming Liu also features among the winning designs. Named Print Clay Humidifier, the product was created to show the wide possibilities of ceramic recycling.

"Its functions are based on the plants' capillary absorption which transports and evaporates water," said Liu. "The recycled ceramic powder and uniquely shaped construction increase water absorption, creating a design that’s both functional and elegant."

"Through the mentors' advice, I strengthened the narrative about how this humidifier can play a useful role in addressing the need for ceramic waste recycling, as well as the efficiency and potential of the material," he continued. "Also, I clarified the significance of 3D printing and experimented on further improving water absorption efficiency."

Touch the Valley puzzle designers
Touch the Valley puzzle was designed to engage the sense of touch

US-based design duo Temporary Office's winning work transforms the traditional puzzle into a 3D topographic puzzle designed for users with visual impairments.

"These sessions with mentors helped improve the playability of the puzzle significantly," said designers Vincent Lai and Douglas Lee of Temporary Office.

"We added features such as magnetic haptic feedback, elevational grooves, smoother edges, and potentially extruded patterns in the hope that users can joyfully immerse themselves in the process of play and exploration without too much cognitive load," the duo continued.

Zero Bag and industrial design students Kyeongho Park and Yejin Heo
Zero Bag was created by industrial design students Kyeongho Park and Yejin Heo

Industrial design students Kyeongho Park and Yejin Heo created Zero Bag, which offers an eco-friendly alternative to wasteful, plastic clothing packaging. The algae-based bag, which they envision being used to store clothes or food, is able to dissolve in water.

The water-soluble plastic packaging with paper detergents or baking soda lining allows clothes or food items to be cleaned while the bag around them dissolves.

"With the mentors' advice, we conducted testing and experiments on the durability to make it water resistant to optimise the bag's usage," said Park and Heo. "We found the best film by adjusting the ratio of the alginate material, and as a result, we applied Zero Bag not only to clothing but also to fruits and meal kits."

The exhibition of the winning projects is the latest in a series of Lexus displays at Milan design week.

"We, as designers, have a unique responsibility to create answers to challenges, whether that is through innovative ideas, beautiful aesthetics, or any other method that could offer a better future. From this point of view, the winning ideas were a clear reminder of the power of design," said Simon Humphries, chief branding officer of Toyota Motor Corporation.

Over the past years, the brand has also collaborated with designers to create innovative installations displayed together with the awarded designs.

 New York-based architect Suchi Reddy next to Shaped by Air
Lexus displayed an installation by New York-based architect Suchi Reddy named Shaped by Air

Alongside prototypes by the four Lexus Design Award 2023 winners, at this year's Milan design week Lexus displayed an installation by New York-based architect Suchi Reddy named Shaped by Air.

Imagined as a multi-sensory installation that visitors can walk through, the work is a full-scale interpretation of the Lexus Electrified Sport concept vehicle.

The overarching theme of the exhibition was "shaping the future", which aimed to embody Lexus' commitment to design, which has "the power to build a better tomorrow for all".

To find out more about the Lexus Design Award's winning designs, visit Lexus' website.

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This article was written by Dezeen for Lexus as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.