words Justin McGuirk, Johanna Agerman, William Wiles, Anna Bates, Beatrice Galilee, Oliver Wainwright, Alex Pasternack, Matthew Barac, Sean Dodson11. FRONT
"It's bizarre that in 2009 it is seen as unusual that we are four women working together," says Sofia Lagerkvist, who founded the Swedish design studio Front with Charlotte von der Lancken, Anna Lindgren and Katja Sävström in 2003. "But if our practice [means] more female designers start their own companies, that's really good."
Since the start, Front's main interest has been the process of design, rather than the look of the finished product. Its first project left the design of wallpapers and coat hooks to pet snakes and mice. The Sketch furniture project allowed the group to draw chairs in the air and realise them using motion-capture and rapid prototyping technologies. And this spring, at last, the studio has taken its ideas to the mass market, with the Svarva lamps and Selma chair for flatpack giant Ikea. Milan this year sees Front launching products with some of the biggest names in the industry: Moroso, Magis and Established & Sons.
12. Gareth Pugh
Even though fashion designer Pugh is just 28, he has a 14-year career behind him. Starting out as costume designer for the English National Youth Theatre at the age of 14, performance and spectacle have always been the watchwords of this London-based designer. Since he graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2003 with a collection that used balloons to accentuate the models' joints and limbs he has been regarded as the one to watch of London's emerging designers. "He's really the first of his generation to get the same acclaim as someone like Alexander McQueen," says Oriole Cullen, the Victoria & Albert museum's curator of modern fashion. "What's interesting is also that he was determined to make it from the start, his graduation show was pure spectacle, he knew how to use it for his advantage."
13. Project H Design
The H in Project H stands for humanities, habitats, health and happiness. Project H is the brainchild of Emily Pilloton, who seems to run it on few resources other than her own boundless energy and charisma. It shares a philosophy, and offices, with Cameron Sinclair's Architecture for Humanity, but uniquely its focus is on product design. Projects include designing "learning landscapes" for AIDS orphans in Uganda and helping homeless people in Los Angeles towards self-sufficiency. In a flagship Project H initiative, Pilloton took on an existing but struggling product - the Hippo Roller, which makes transporting water over long distances easier - improved its design, organised transportation to Africa, and funded distribution by "crowdfunding" - soliciting small donations over the internet. Indeed, Project H's most valuable contribution might be to educate other Western designers that the best way out of a design problem is not always a new product.
Conny Freyer, Sebastien Noel and Eva Rucki have found a way to champion both new technology and old technology. Their studio, London-based Troika, is best known to a general audience for its two pieces of decorative design at Heathrow Terminal 5: Cloud and All the Time in the World. But Troika has also astutely put itself at the forefront of a new wave of digital and interaction designers by writing the definitive book about the field, Digital by Design (Thames & Hudson). And in a future where "appropriate design" is going to become a dominant philosophy, Troika has shown the beauty and pleasure that can be found in reviving neglected technologies of the recent past, rather than getting lost in the pursuit of the next new thing. Among the signs that that the world is starting to take notice is the fact that it was nominated for not one but three Brit Insurance Designs of the Year awards this year.
15. Revital Cohen
Easily the youngest person on this list, Revital Cohen only left the Royal College of Art last year, but her graduation project was deep in pioneering territory. Cohen explored using animals as life-support machines - an idea that will make many uncomfortable and yet which is potentially more humane and rewarding than plugging someone into a machine. Respiratory Dog proposed using a retired dog-track greyhound - which would normally be put down - as a respiratory device. Its rapid breath rate is converted via a bellows to replace a machine ventilator. Dialysis Sheep, meanwhile, uses a specially bred ewe as a dialysis machine - roaming free during the day and filtering your blood through its kidneys at night. This all might sound far-fetched but Cohen's project is already stirring up debate. With ideas that resonate with both the design and medical communities, she has the potential to achieve great things.