‘FEN (Growing Garments)’ by Lydia Hardcastle, BA Performance: Design and Practice

Back for its 10th year of celebrating emerging talent, the MullenLowe NOVA Awards has announced its 2021 shortlist, and it’s packed with fresh, original and imaginative work to inspire you. And that’s no accident because the judging panel for the awards – a collaboration between the MullenLowe Group and Central Saint Martins – was seeking exactly that.

“For 2021, we were looking for ideas that have never been done before,” explains Jose Miguel Sokoloff, global president of MullenLowe’s Group Creative Council. “We wanted projects that had been thought through rigorously, asked questions and found solutions that were interesting and can ultimately help us all be better.”

Judging the shortlist is no easy feat. “It’s like comparing apples to pears, with work spanning architecture and design to fashion, textiles and photography,” he notes. “But once again, we’ve managed to champion the best of the best projects. I’m continually surprised by the level of thinking, and this year is no exception.”

Tammy Hourigan, global agency relations director at Unilever and a member of this year’s judging panel, agrees. “I had a great time looking at all the work,” she says. “It was really inspiring, and I loved the variety of projects and the challenge of comparing one thing to another.”

Read on as we reveal the full shortlist and explain the thinking behind each of the projects, which are showcased online here.

Got a favourite? Then you’re invited to vote in the YourNOVA ‘People’s Choice’ Award, which allows you to pick your favourite piece of shortlisted work. The student who receives the most votes will be crowned the YourNOVA winner for 2021, and voting is open until Friday 6 August.

1. ‘Carnerie’ by Alice Turner, BA Product Design

This conceptual, speculative project by Alice Turner is designed to help us visualise what a post-meat society might look like and whether it’s a future we’d buy into. ‘Carnerie’ is an app-controlled device that lets you order cell capsules from local farms to grow different types of meat. By exciting, shocking or even repulsing the viewer, this project asks us to question our existing meat consumption habits and whether they need to change.

2. ‘everything is great *’ by Claudia Gusella, BA Fashion Design

Inspired by medieval symbolism and imagery and Claudia Gusella’s own experience of overcoming trauma, ‘everything is great *’ realises an imaginary world with sustainability as a focus. This collection made of waste materials challenges the waste, pollution and shameful exploitation in the fashion industry and inspires others to be more resourceful.

3. ‘Ulïètu’ by Francesca Dalosio, MA Industrial Design

Ulïètu is a collection of surface panels reflecting the traumatic effect of Xylella fastidiosa, one of the most dangerous plant-pathogenic bacteria in the world. This project presents an intelligent and sustainable use for these wood chips, avoiding combustion and taking advantage of the residual material properties in large-scale contexts. This preserves what remains of the Apulian olive trees, giving them a second chance at life.

4. ‘HS2 Ghostlands’ by Gwen Siôn, BA Fine Art XD

This multi-disciplinary project is an extensive research project into HS2 and its environmental impact to highlight the issues of deforestation, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. The final outcome of the project includes a digital archive of recordings in the form of an interactive sound map, a set of musical instruments hand-built by recycling natural materials found at 18 specific sites over a five-month period, and a piece of experimental music.

5. ‘Looop Can’ by Cheuk Laam Wong, BA Product Design

Inspired by Buoyancy Force, ‘Looop Can’ is an NGO project to provide a cleaning kit for washing reusable menstruation pads. The aim is to reduce period poverty for refugees in water-scarce regions or asylum seekers in financial difficulties.

6. ‘Liǎn’ by Jaan Choy, BA Graphic Communication Design

Jaan Choy’s shortlisted project is an experimental mask that explores the relationship between our online personas and offline selves. The concept and design are heavily inspired by Chinese face-changing opera art and online avatars, merging cultural tradition with modern technology.

7. ‘Song Light’ by Jessie Zhang, BA Graphic Communication Design

Jessie Zhang’s project is an exploration of alternative relationships. ‘Song Light’ is an ambient lighting system controlled by birdsong that aims to reintroduce nature into our technological lives. Powered by a convolutional neural network trained on the song of 88 bird species commonly heard in the United Kingdom, it amplifies their voices by expanding their song from the auditory to the visual realm to increase our awareness of, contact with, and connection to the natural world.

8. ‘Speculative Mind Mulch’ by Kaius Mowbray, BA Fine Art XD

This cross-disciplinary project is rooted in the idea of fiction as a medium and continuous practice across multiple fronts. A shifting lens zooms in and out of different characters and worlds, presenting fractured stories through animation, writing, sound and illustration. The notion of alternative realities and speculative futures is explored through the presentation of an alternate London, inspired by high and low cultural forms, as well as Kaius Mowbray’s own personal experiences and memories.

9. ‘FEN (Growing Garments)’ by Lydia Hardcastle, BA Performance: Design and Practice

Inspired by organic materials, ‘FEN (Growing Garments)’ is a growing piece of living art made from curveleaf hypnum moss foraged from Lydia Hardcastle’s local countryside. The aim is to bring nature and greenery into people’s lives in ways they’ve never experienced before, with the hope of promoting positive wellbeing.

10. ‘We Are All Carbon’ by Molly Macleod, MA Art and Science

What happens if we inhabit our technological future with our own biological matter? For ‘We Are All Carbon’, Molly Macleod’s own biological matter is repurposed to amplify sound. One year’s worth of hair and nails shed and collected are cremated to form carbon granules. Vibrations passing through these granules create a transducer that converts electrical signals into sound.

11. ‘BacTerra’ by Nikoleta Crysikou, MA Material Futures

‘BacTerra’ is a project proposing the use of bacteria to create alternative ceramics that are self-fired and biologically glazed. By providing a making process where ceramic waste and living organisms are the main ingredients, Nikoleta Crysikou hopes to start a conversation about the promising possibilities of biotechnology within pottery.

12. ‘Co-Obradorio Galego’ by Paula Camina, MA Biodesign

‘Co-Obradoiro Galego’ is a collaborative project between Paula Camina and three basket makers, working together in a local context in Galicia, a coastal region in northwest Spain. Using a flexible and biodegradable bio-material from Galician seafood exoskeletons (unused waste), Paula aims to help rebuild the Galician identity, reinterpreting existent components present in the culture and claiming crafts from the sea.

13. ‘Homes on the Move’ by Yijia Wu, BA Fine Art 4D

For ‘Homes on the Move’, Yijia Wu uses her body as the medium to explore the boundaries between public and personal and the impact of the government’s policy on individuals. By performing in Beijing, in public places with a range of cultural and historical backgrounds, she interrogates who has the power to determine one’s space while exploring and expanding the definition of home, territory and sense of belonging.

14. ‘Planet Series’ by Yuhan Huang, MA Fine Art

In the current era of information globalisation, people’s digital habits are based on the algorithms behind each platform. ‘Planet Series’ focuses on the influence of online derivatives on social lifestyles and communication methods in the development of online culture.

Find out who won

So when will we know the winners? Not long now! They’ll be announced in an online ceremony on Wednesday 18 August.

The six awards include one overall winner, two runners up, the Unilever #Unstereotype Award, the YourNOVA ‘People’s Choice’ Award and new for 2021, the Creative Boom’ Conscious’ Award.

You can vote for your favourite project to win the YourNOVA award here and find out more about the awards at the MullenLowe NOVA Awards website.