10 innovative designs reconnecting people to nature

This year Hubbub’s Design by Nature competition challenged design students and recent graduates to come up with new ways to connect people with nature. The winning ideas, selected by an expert panel, are inspiring and varied ranging from an interactive installation promoting sustainable diets to a mini, growing ‘greenwall’ anyone can have in their home.  

Design By Nature builds on Hubbub’s belief that insight-led, experimental design should be at the heart of solving some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing society. Over the years we have seen how impactful great design can be in nudging behaviours and the value of collaborating to create innovative, experimental approaches to tackling environmental issues. From trialling drone technology and AI, developed by technology start-up Ellipsis Earth, to tackle litter, to working with artists Climate and Cities to create a Pollution Pavilion raising awareness of air pollution and our continued collaboration with Mark Edwards MBE, a boat builder bringing to life our 99% recycled plastic punts to tell a brilliant story of the circular economy.  

We have continually been astonished by the level of talent of young design students coming through our education system and want to create more platforms and opportunities for them to use their skills to develop environmentally sustainable solutions. Design by Nature was created in 2019 to harness this creativity, giving student’s a chance to work on a practical brief, enabling them to hone their ideas and then present them to a group of experts.  

This year, thanks to support from the Wates Family Enterprise Trust, we focussed the briefs on encouraging people from all sections of society to connect with nature. Our hope is that we can incorporate their ideas into our Manchester ‘In Our Nature’ campaign taking their concepts to a wider audience. 

The two winning ideas are summarised below:  

1. 'XPlore'

Lilymae's idea ‘XPlore’ responded to the brief to inspire 18-25 year olds to explore and spend time in their local green spaces and engage with nature in their everyday lives. 

'XPlore' is a rewards-based navigation app making nature part of daily journeys. It offers alternative green routes and rewards time spent in nature with sustainable perks. The app generates several nature-incorporated routes based on your end destination. You can share activity with friends and trade in the points you earn for perks which promote sustainability and healthy living. 

"Loved it. Great concept. Smart use of key principles (esp. nudge, simplify, social norms, partner). Very scalable with the right support." - Anna Turrell, Head of Environment for Tesco, Guest judge

We’ll be supporting Lilymae to take the next steps with developing her idea and offering advice from industry experts. Please get in touch if you’re interested in connecting with Lilymae. 

2. 'The Hidden Drought'

Joshua's idea ‘The Hidden Drought’ responded to the brief to help inner-city communities to make more sustainable choices in their day-to-day lives and become advocates for protecting the environment. 

'The Hidden Drought', an installation (turned urban community vegetable patch), visualises the amount of water that goes into the production of a beef steak compared to the number of vegetables that amount of water could grow. It invites the community to reduce the amount of meat they eat by opening up the veg patch to passers-by.

"Design has always interested me, but my mindset and thoughts towards design has grown with the changing purpose and need for design thinking. Design provides a brilliant opportunity to add value to others lives. Building positive experiences for others leads to positive experiences for yourself, and it seems that inherently I was naturally drawn to design because of this." - Joshua Fox 

We’ll be collaborating with Joshua to explore ways we can trial his idea in our Manchester climate campaign In Our Nature. Watch this space! 

Dig into the variety of innovative shortlisted entries: 

  • A mini green wall anyone can own 
  • A green QR code to encourage city walking 
  • A bird watching app for Gen Z  
  • An indoor herb garden aimed at first time growers 
  • A children’s toy with a second life 
  • An egg vivarium for students  
  • A social platform for meeting up in nature 
  • A campaign to help the kelp 


If you'd like to hear more about Design By Nature, please get in touch.