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Migrants, women inspire at London design award show
Installation view.

by Antoine Pollez

LONDON (AFP).- From a refugee flag to a puzzle campaign highlighting gender bias in the workforce, migrants and women inspired some of the innovative international designs on show in London starting on Wednesday.

"Design is real life, it is not something safe in a gallery," said Glenn Adamson, curator of the Design Museum exhibition which showcases 60 projects nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year awards.

The aim was to "show what design could do both symbolically and practically," Adamson told AFP.

One of the pieces shortlisted for the prize is a pink "Pussyhat" placed on a mannequin.

The knitted hat became a symbol in January after featuring at the Women's March in Washington, DC, and was replicated around the world to protest against the presidency of Donald Trump.

The "Pussyhat Project" was created by four young women in California and it quickly spread through social media, aided by having the pattern made freely available online.

It became "the most visually effective and internationally recognised symbol of protest this century," according to Libby Sellers, a gallery owner who nominated the project.

Krista Suh, one of the women behind the hat, told AFP that the broader influence of the Pussyhat was more important than the possibility of winning the Beazley prize.

"It's not so much about an award as it is spreading awareness and creating impact," she said.

Empowering young women
Women's rights have a prominent place in the exhibition. The projects include the "Finding Her" campaign, created for UN Women Egypt to highlight gender inequality in politics, technology and science.

Adopting the same approach as the puzzle book series "Where's Wally?", the Japanese illustrators IC4 Design asked people to find the only woman in an industry scene.

The aim was to draw attention to women's low participation in the labour force, currently at 23 percent according to UN Women.

The theme continues with "Professional Women Emoji", which aimed to rid the images used in electronic messages of inequality.

The Google team created 13 new symbols to represent women in different professions, including a doctor, an engineer and a professor.

"We believe this will empower young women (the heaviest emoji users), and better reflect the pivotal roles women play in the world," the team said in a statement.

A refugee national flag
Another key issue addressed by the exhibition is migration, with a large orange flag with a black line across it hanging on the wall.

The "Refugee National flag" was created for Amnesty International by Yara Said, a refugee who fled the Syrian capital Damascus.

"She came across the Mediterranean Sea and when she arrived, she saw these piles of life jackets everywhere. It impressed her and this is what she came up with this," Adamson said.

Equally striking is the "Calais Builds Project" by Irish architect Grainne Hassett, who sought to build community infrastructure for the "Jungle" migrant camp in the French port city.

The designs were put together with the help of students and the migrants themselves, including a youth centre and a women and children's centre which were destroyed by the French authorities when the camp was cleared in 2016.

The concept follows in the footsteps of the Ikea Foundation's "Better Shelter", in collaboration with the UN refugee agency, which won last year's Beazley prize for its innovative emergency and temporary homes.

This year's exhibition runs until January 28, 2018, three days after the winners of the six categories -- architecture, transport, fashion, digital, product, graphics -- are announced.

© Agence France-Presse

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