Wallpaper* Design Awards 2020: Designer of the Year Shortlist

The coveted Wallpaper* Design Award for Designer of the Year 2020 shortlist includes world-leading innovators, disruptors and thinkers

Designer of the year
(Image credit: press)


Sabine Marcelis


Marcelis’ ‘The Shapes of Water’ installation for Fendi

(Image credit: press)

We’ve seen plenty of Sabine Marcelis’ candy-coloured resin designs popping up over the past year. The New Zealandborn, Rotterdam-based designer has gained an impressive fan base since her graduation from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2011, when she was spotted and signed up by Etage Projects gallery founder Maria Foerlev. In 2019 alone, Marcelis has worked with the likes of Fendi, GQ Middle East, MSGM and Givenchy to produce installations, furniture pieces and minimalist sculptures. She has also cemented herself as a firm favourite among design collectors, and has exhibited at major fairs including Nomad St Moritz, Design Miami/Basel and Copenhagen’s Chart.

BASED: Rotterdam
KEY PROJECTS: The Shapes of Water installation for Fendi; MSGM store, Milan; ‘Mint Soap’ desk and redesign of Martin Visser’s ‘SE69’ chair, for Etage Projects


Cristina Celestino

Pink chairs on a rug in a pink room

(Image credit: press)

Having created one of the biggest Instagram moments of the 2018 Milan Design Week with a 1928 tram decked out entirely in pastel pink, Cristina Celestino’s presence was ubiquitous at the 2019 event, with a multitude of projects, for brands such as Fornace Brioni, Billiani and Besana Carpet Lab. And with her signature feminine touch, she’s certainly easy to spot. The designer applies her penchant for pastels and pattern across all of her interior and design projects, resulting in an aesthetic that is both delicate and rich. In the past year, her approach has attracted commissions from the likes of Cedit and Rubelli, as well as Fendi Casa, for the which she created Back Home, a collection that made smart use of the maison’s Pequin striped motif. She also released a number of productst hrough her own studio, Attico Design, including tables inspired by cufflinks.

BASED: Milan
KEY PROJECTS: Sergio Rossi boutiques, Paris and Rome; ‘Pulsar’ lamps, for Esperia; Back Home collection, for Fendi Casa

Max Lamb

A selection of ceramic bowls

(Image credit: press)

In 2019, Max Lamb spent a lot of time in Japan – not for a sabbatical or a holiday, but to master the Urushi techniques of the craftspeople living in Wajima, in Ishikawa prefecture, on the northern tip of the Noto peninsula region. Working alongside them, the designer developed his own approach to the lacquering process, and in turn produced a series of tables, cabinets, shelves, stools, benches and chairs. He presented the results with Gallery Fumi at the London Design Festival, during which he was also part of the Legacy project orchestrated by Benchmark and AHEC. For this, Lamb worked alongside Tate director Maria Balshaw to create a valet unit in response to her desire for ‘a hanging-mirror-screen-storage-help-me-get-changedunit’ that she could use when heading straight to evening functions from the office. Typically, Lamb played with the materiality of the porous American oak, rubbing a blue dye onto its surface, ingraining it into the timber’s grains.

BASED: London
KEY PROJECTS: Urushi Wajima collection, for Gallery Fumi; Legacy project, for Benchmark and AHEC

Michael Anastassiades

A light fitting by Anastassiades

(Image credit: press)

This year, London-based designer Michael Anastassiades returned to his home country of Cyprus to open his first retrospective. Named ‘Things That Go Together’, the exhibition surveyed the last 12 years of his career, and showcased not only lighting, but also furniture, accessories and objects that he has collected throughout his life. ‘It is very important for me that the exhibition is in Nicosia and that I could curate it in my own way,’ explained Anastassiades. As usual, his work was also scattered around Milan Design Week, where he launched new collections with Flos, as well as his eponymous label, and also debuted a collaborative installation at Nilufar gallery, working alongside Brigitte Niedermair and Martino Gamper. More recently, the designer applied his skills to the table, crafting a series of glasses for Lobmeyr, each one individually chipped at the base by hand and then polished, resulting in a characteristically simple yet refined form.

BASED: London
KEY PROJECTS: Piano Nobile installation, Milan, for Nilufar; ‘Coordinates’ lighting system, for Flos; ‘Things That Go Together’ retrospective, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre; ‘Flint’ glassware, for Lobmeyr

Virgil Abloh

Blue, metal clothes rail

(Image credit: press)

It’s hard to think of a designer who has been as prolific this year as Virgil Abloh. The Chicagoan, who famously conducts many of his collaborations over WhatsApp, was once Kanye West’s right-hand man, but has now carved out his own position in the design world, bringing with him a fresh-faced team (many hired on the basis of their Instagram accounts). In 2018, he teased us with prototypes for Ikea, but in 2019 he went full throttle on product design, with a number of sell-out products with Vitra (which, somewhat bravely, included reinterpretations of iconic Jean Prouvé pieces); his first foray into homeware with his own brand, Off-White; and the Acqua Alta collection with Carpenters Workshop Gallery at the Venice Biennale. The autumn launch of a fully realised Ikea collection had fans camping outside stores. Abloh also managed to squeeze in a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

BASED: Chicago and Paris
KEY PROJECTS: ‘Markerad’ collection, for Ikea; Virgil Abloh c/o Vitra Spin-Off collection; Off-White homeware collection; Acqua Alta collection, for Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.