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Travelling is one of life’s great pleasures, but many aspects of it can be improved by innovative product designers who combine practical solutions with aesthetics to create “smart” products. By devoting their full attention to these products, designers can not only radically improve product functionality and desirability, but also address many of the most common challenges associated with travel.
Here are 7 examples of design-led innovations that offer some impressive solutions for city travellers. You’ll appreciate them as much for their looks as for the way they will improve your travel experience.
1. Smart luggage
Berlin-based start-up Horizn is a team of engineers and designers who describe themselves as “frequent travellers, digital nomads, and design aficionados”. Who better to create the perfect carry-on luggage? Using aerospace-grade quality polycarbonate, spinner wheels that are precision-engineered in Japan, and handcrafted leather from Italy, its carry-on luggage is designed with German efficiency and attention to detail.
The best part, however, is in the technical considerations: removable batteries that can recharge your phone or tablet, GPS that tracks missing suitcases, or a Guard Card which alerts you if your wallet or handbag is more than 30 meters away.
2. Reverse folding umbrella
We’ve all been there—unable to avoid the pouring rain and stuck with a soaking wet umbrella. It took an aeronautical and civil engineer and 10 years of research and development to figure out a solution: a reverse-folding umbrella that tucks the wet surface up inside as it folds.
The Cyprus-born creator, Jenan Kazim, became a star on BBC’s “Dragons Den,” and CNBC’s “Make Me A Millionaire Inventor.” A successful crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter raised more than 10 times the target budget to make the KAZbrella happen. Now you can buy your own, in a range of stylish colours. Better yet, come meet the founder at the King’s Cross Creative Quarter during the London Design Festival (21-24 September 2017).
3. Raincoats for cyclists
Getting around by bike can be one of the most pleasurable ways to explore a new city, but less so when there’s a sudden downpour. Amsterdam fashion label Senscommon has created a stylish, unisex raincoat for cyclists which also packs down neatly when not in use.
The raincoat features technical fabric that is breathable yet perfectly waterproof, as well as a special button fastening system that allows you to keep your thighs and knees dry when you pedal.
4. A scooter for transporting luggage
Although you might be more familiar with Micro scooters as the toddler’s preferred means of transport for the kindergarten commute, these Swiss-designed urban transportation devices are also pretty popular with adults.
If you’ve ever needed to get somewhere on foot quickly while trundling a suitcase on wheels, the Micro Luggage Scooter is the answer to your prayers. “A kickboard, suitcase and luggage trolley, all rolled into one; ideal for getting though airports or around town quickly,” as the Swiss company puts it. And a lot of fun, to boot.
5. A week’s wardrobe in one tiny bag
Unique Travel Set is the ultimate capsule wardrobe for travelling light, created by a Croatian start-up which launched this year.
The neat, multifunctional cloth bag contains 7 monochromatic items made of wrinkle-free viscose. They can be mixed and matched to create 30 different clothing combinations for any occasion, from a business meeting to going for a run—a fun styling challenge if ever there was one for fashion bloggers!
6. A pillow to combat jetlag
Switzerland and Madrid-based architecture and design agency Studio Banana created the Ostrich Pillow, a system that facilitates snoozing, whether on a long-haul flight or for power-napping during daylight hours. The bubble-shaped pillow pulls over your head and offers a total blackout, while the padding means you can comfortably lean your head anywhere.
Regular long-haul flight passengers swear by its sleep-inducing qualities.
7. Sunglasses for hands-free filming
Recently launched by Snapchat, Spectacles are sunglasses that allow you to film what you’re seeing, by making up to 30 second mini-films by pressing a button on the frame. The 115-degree lens is designed to mimic how humans see.
You can the share the film with friends after sending it to Memories on Snapchat using WiFi or Bluetooth with an Android phone or iPhone: a travel diary for the 21st century.