Top 10 product designs of 2021: Editor’s Choice

Let’s just say that if 2021 has us feeling anything, it’s probably a feeling of hope that 2022 won’t be such a colossal shitstorm. We’ve seen a whole bunch this year, pandemics and a global vaccination effort, civil unrest, economic ruination, supply chain issues, new tech launches despite the former, billionaires in space, and probably the most hilarious of all, a ship getting stuck in a canal. For once, however, why don’t we put that rollercoaster recap aside and look at the stuff that got us truly excited – from creative concepts to actual design announcements. Here’s a healthy, hearty recap of the most interesting designs we saw in 2021, the year gone by.

01. Nike Go FlyEase

These are the Nike Go FlyEase hand-free shoes that bring the convenience of wearing and taking off your pair without even bending over or touching them ever. People who already do this with a pair of shoes with laces (when they are too tired or lazy) to take them off the conventional style (by untying the laces) will have their eyes set on the Nike Go FlyEase. The motion of using one foot to pull down on the heel of the other and vice versa when you have the crocs or loose sneakers is what most of us do. But doing the same to a pair of shoes can deform them over time – so Nike came up with a solution that lets you do kickstand heel motion to open them up in a jiffy without any damage to the shoe material.

02. DJI Action 2

Perhaps the DJI Action 2’s most defining feature (and you’ll see it practically all their images) is the snap-on touchscreen module. Traditionally, all action cameras have lenses on the front and displays on the rear… and that’s great for filming everything except yourself. DJI’s Front Touchscreen Module basically lets you turn the action camera into a wide-angle vlogging camera. The module snaps right on and lets you attach other accessories like the tripod, selfie stick, car-mount, etc. Moreover, snapping it on doesn’t just give you a front-facing extra screen… it gives you an extra battery pack too, doubling the Action 2’s recording time to 160 minutes, and also adds extra mics for crisper audio recording – a feature that vastly benefits vloggers and influencers who want to be in the spotlight.

03. Honda RidgeLine EV

The Ridgeline EV concept comes from the mind of California-based Rene Garcia, a concept designer at ILM who’s previously worked on The Mandalorian, Thor: Ragnarok, The Avengers, and the Transformers anthology. Garcia began designing the vehicle as a Dakar rally truck, but gradual iterations slowly turned it into a conceptual pickup truck for Honda. Designed to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, the EV comes with its own winch-hook on the front, a frunk behind it, suicide-style rear doors that give you access to the car’s spacious interiors, and an expandable truck-bed on the back that even comes equipped with tools and emergency medical kits.

04. NASA Exoskeleton

NASA has put a lot of time and effort into developing new-age spacesuits to counter the effects of gravity in hostile environments. 14 years to be exact, and it has cost them a whopping $420 million already. This jaw-dropping concept spacesuit is the work of designer Riyahd Cassiem who fuses the cool element associated with exoskeleton suits to the inter-planetary dreams we humans have embarked on. The Exo Suit Concept has an unshakeable Halo game influence to it – one can instantly relate to the fearless KAT-B320, CARTER-A259, and ALICE-130 characters. The reinforced suit is built for the harshest of situations, and the mechanical character means it is going to provide the wearer assistance in performing arduous tasks, otherwise too tedious in alien environments. Of course, it is made from lightweight yet stellar material for ultra-flexibility which is crucial.

05. Sony Walkman Music Player

The Walkman SSS (Smart Sound System) by Ja Heon Lee mashes up the modern digital with the old classic to satiate the lust for music in a niche form factor. The Sony Walkman opens up like any analog cassette player and docks the smartphone with the screen facing outwards. The information screen of the compatible music player app displays the music information through the animation which resembles the look of a cassette tape. On top of the music player, there is the detachable multi-controller which acts as an interface to control the music, take important calls or view lyrics on the fly. All this while your smartphone sits snug inside the Walkman.

06. NightWatch Apple Watch Stand

The NightWatch is a pretty simple accessory that enhances your Apple Watch’s abilities. It doesn’t come with its own charger but will let you hook your watch’s charger into it. Once assembled, you can easily slide your Apple Watch into its unique design, and that calibrated glass lens on the front enlarges the screen like a magnifying glass would, making numbers much more visible when your watch is in Nightstand mode. It comes with a patented system that even lets you tap the glass surface to ‘wake’ up your Apple Watch’s display, so you can read the time clearly… and when your watch’s alarm begins ringing, special acoustic channels designed in the NightWatch dock’s base help amplify your watch’s audio, making that alarm much louder.

07. The Shape Superyacht

Lazzarini Design is known for its eccentric future-forward creations, superyachts in particular. Christened “The Shape” this superyacht breaks all the fundamental rules of sailing and yacht design that we’ve seen so far. It has a gaping hole right in the middle (just like the ones in modern skyscrapers) that serves as the sun deck and a never-before-seen unique visual attraction. How it will address the turbulent seas when the weather is hostile, is a question for another day! The beastly concept is 69 meters long and having a draft of 3.90 meters yacht offers a living area of 35 meters past the void. It has three decks hidden in the colossal structure – the first floor having the suites, the second one being the shared living space, and the command center on the third.

08. ForeverPen

Designed as the ultimate EDC by Raja Ahmad, ForeverPen comes in a ridiculously small avatar that can fit on your keychain or around your zip, it can be worn around your neck like a minimalist pendant, or even on your bracelet, giving you a writing instrument that’s always on you. Designed to be the most convenient piece of stationery every, ForeverPen is the one pen that’s always around and always ready to write and draw. Its nib comes crafted from a proprietary silver composite that can write smoothly like a pencil would, while never running out. The technology improves on a centuries-old drawing technique called silverpoint, a craft well renowned during the late Rennaisance and even used by Leonardo da Vinci himself. In its modern iteration, the material developed for the ForeverPen is much more hard-wearing – which means it can write anywhere and on anything.

09. Hide And Seek Chair

What’s brilliant about the Hide And Seek chair by Yanagisawa Sera is its sheer absurdity… along with the fact that it actually works! Sera went straight from the drawing board to the metal workshop to test his idea out and from the looks of it, the umbrella-shaped chair works – at least on a prototype level! The frame of the umbrella was fabricated from stainless steel rods and is designed to fold right into the umbrella shape when closed. A stretched fabric mounted on the frame helps distribute the weight when you sit, allowing the chair to actually take the weight of an adult human. It does look a tad fragile if I’m being candid, but that’s something that can easily be fixed by using materials like titanium or even carbon fiber. The best part about the entire product is that it folds right back into the shape of a standard umbrella, which means you can place it in backpacks, handbags, or even carry it to the grocery store or a concert… blending right into the crowd right before you open the Hide And Seek and take a seat on the world’s only umbrella-shaped chair!

10. Xiaomi CyberDog

Quadruped technology is the talk of the robotics world. Four-legged robots are relied on by industries across the world for tasks that require a stable walking gait and agile mobility. Xiaomi, a Chinese tech company, recently unveiled more 3D renders of their own Quadruped robotic creation, CyberDog. Currently, the bio-inspired, four-legged robot has been engineered as a robotic companion whose future technical capabilities are still in development. In a recent press release from Xiaomi, it’s said that CyberDog comes complete with “AI interactive cameras [and sensors], binocular ultra-wide-angle fisheye cameras, and Intel ® RealSense™ D450 Depth module, and can be trained with its computer vision algorithm.” CyberDog’s external interface features an array of camera sensors. CyberDog’s involved vision sensor system allows the robot to carve out its own navigational map and analyze its surrounding environment in real-time, allowing it to look toward a destination and avoid physical barriers on the way.