The company synonymous with Barbie pivoted in a new direction with the September 2019 introduction of intentionally gender-neutral doll kits specifically designed to let kids play free of labels. Mattel’s Creatable World knocked down barriers—but only after the project team collaborated with physicians and gender experts and applied consumer-driven insights to develop dolls with hairstyles and wardrobes that children can adapt.
46th Most Influential Project of 2020
When health officials put the word out to the public about wearing face masks to prevent coronavirus spread, some wore bandanas; some went for disposable paper masks. Others hit the sewing machine and made their own. U.S. sportswear giant Under Armour immediately began building project prototypes. The result: UA Sportsmask. Specially designed for athletes and fitness buffs, the US$30 water-resistant mask features an antimicrobial layer and “Iso-Chill” fabric to keep skin cool. The first batch sold out in less than an hour.
The first version of the plant-based meat was a huge hit for restaurants looking to satisfy consumer cravings. For the encore rolled out in 2019, the team once again reacted to shifting tastes and developed a new version with no gluten, animal hormones or antibiotics. Plus, it’s both kosher- and halal-certified. And while the original product was designed for flat-top cooking, restaurant cooks can steam, sear or sizzle the new stuff.
Purina’s latest pet food is nothing to sneeze at. It’s the first mainstream brand designed to reduce cat hair and dander allergens—welcome relief for triggered feline owners. The U.S. pet care giant proclaims the chow “revolutionary,” and its scientists say it can neutralize the common Fel d 1 allergen by an average of 47 percent.
Now this is a makeup mirror. Sephora’s AI-powered in-store mirror scans customers and then—based on factors like gender, age, look and style—generates hyper-personalized product recommendations. The mirror then displays the QR codes so customers can find their goodies online or in-store. The French cosmetics giant partnered with Wildbytes, a U.S. interactive experience solution provider, for the pilot project at its flagship outlet in Madrid, Spain last year.
Professors at the University of Chicago developed a smart-speaker-jamming wearable in February that’s designed to block the threat of digital eavesdropping—in cyberpunk style. It’s the first bracelet-style device that doesn’t need to be pointed at the speaker, which means it will automatically thwart hidden microphones. For a change: Privacy 1, Alexa 0.
In an industry not exactly known for deep sustainability, Nike developed a new line of eco-friendly sneakers made from yarns containing at least 85 percent rPoly made of recycled plastic water bottles, T-shirts and yarn scraps. The company says it “embodies the idea that designers have a right and responsibility in problem-solving.”
Designer Anifa Mvuemba wasn’t about to let the coronavirus cancellation of New York Fashion Week get in the way of debuting her direct-to-consumer label Hanifa. Instead, she unveiled her latest designs in May with a virtual show streamed to her 250,000 followers on Instagram Live. No models—just 3D displays of each garment strutting across a black backdrop. To create the fashion-forward look, Mvuemba had to transform each garment into a 3D image and then fit it onto the body of an avatar.
Featuring everything from pillows without down feathers to faux leather made from pineapple fibers, the world’s first entirely vegan hotel suite opened to the public in 2019. Designed by Bompas & Parr, it comes with a seal of approval from The Vegan Society.
Humans aren’t really made for social distancing. So U.K. creative agency We Are Social launched a Snapchat AR lens that issued a friendly reminder to smartphone shooters that they should remain 2 meters (6.5 feet) from their subjects. Using augmented reality technology, the app gives a pop-up alert, “STAY BACK. SAVE LIVES.”