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Kiwi Team’s Finalised Prototype Unveiled For The International Lexus Design Award 2021

APRIL 13, 2021

Lexus today unveiled the refined prototypes of the six finalists of the Lexus Design Award 2021 global competition, including the Kiwi team ‘Heartfelt’ composed of two AUT students.

Jessica Vea and Gayle Lee – the young, local designers behind the nominated concept Heartfelt – have been chosen from an international pool of 2,079 submissions from 66 countries for their creative, relevant and empathetic design concept. At a time when physical human connection is at a historical low, Heartfelt is a product designed to strengthen relational bonds and decrease feelings of loneliness amongst people in self-isolation.

Andrew Davis, General Manager of Lexus New Zealand, says to have a New Zealand team nominated as a finalist in the global Lexus Design Award competition is a huge feat and is testament to the high levels of innovation and design talent that exists amongst Kiwi youth.

Heartfelt has tapped into a global climate of loneliness to offer an imaginative, original solution. Lexus New Zealand are thrilled to have supported Jessica Vea and Gayle Lee throughout their time in the localised Lexus Design Award paper and is excited to see their work now being recognised on a global stage,” he says.

Developed from the idea of a virtual hug, Heartfelt is a product with two individual parts, each designed to be kept by separate people. The small, heart-shaped device acts as a means of wordless communication betwen two individuals, with the ability to warm up when both are being held at the same time.

The Lexus Design Award is an international competition recognised for nurturing the next generation of creatives. Finalists have been chosen using Lexus’ three key design principles, Anticipate, Innovate and Captivate, as judging criteria and mentored by Joe Doucet, Sabine Marcelis, Mariam Kamara, and Sputniko, who helped bring each proposal to fruition with the intent of leading to a Better Tomorrow.

Mentorship is a uniquely attractive core element of the Lexus Design Award. Six finalists are given a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being mentored by world class creators, who provide diverse perspectives and help finalists refine their ideas into an even more innovative proposal within the limited three-month period.

Mentor Mariam Kamara said, “I'm impressed by the amount of work the finalists have been able to do in such a short time. They have really taken the advice and feedback we have given them in their stride and showed a lot of passion and dedication into pushing their ideas to be all that they can be. It is obvious they care about the effect and impact their works can have, and it definitely comes across. The deep level of compassion they all show is absolutely commendable. I'm really staggered by everything they've been able to achieve.”

The six finalists will present their final proposals to a jury of renowned design leaders: Paola Antonelli, Dong Gong, Greg Lynn and Simon Humphries. One Grand Prix winning design will be announced on April 27th, marking the climax of this edition of the Lexus Design Award.


  • Heartfelt by Gayle Lee and Jessica Vea (New Zealand & Tonga, based in New Zealand)
    • A device that reimagines what being ‘present’ means in an isolated world.
  • CY-BO by Kenji Abe (Japan)
    • Sustainable, reusable packaging material that can be assembled like cells.
  • InTempo by Alina Holovatiuk (Ukraine)
    • Phone cover and app that may help distract from stressful situations by novel usage of rhythm and music.
  • KnitX by Irmandy Wicaksono (Indonesia, based in USA)
    • Digital 3-D knitting of electronic textiles for immersive multi-modal gestural, auditory, and tactile material interaction.
  • Portable Solar Distiller by Henry Glogau (Dual New Zealand & Austria, based in Denmark)
    • A portable and low-tech Solar Distiller, which merges water production with community architecture.
  • Terracotta Valley Wind by Intsui Design (China, based in Japan)
    • A terracotta evaporative cooling system for subway stations utilising train-induced wind to function.

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