economia editorial team 6 Jan 2017 09:30am

2016 in review: the stuff of dreams

When things get bad, you can always marvel and goggle at the new products that burst on to the market just when you need them most; lose yourself in a good, old-fashioned book or toy; or immerse yourself in a movement du jour

Caption: Barbie got a makeover in January, with three more dolls added to the range in an attempt to reflect “a broader view of beauty".

1: Crippling read

Originally published in 2015, president-elect Donald Trump’s book Crippled America was relaunched in 2016, and renamed to echo his campaign battle cry. Great Again is a manifesto for Trump’s America, setting out his stall on immigration and healthcare.

2: Pop-up news

A pop-up newspaper, targeted at the 48% who voted Remain, was a runaway success. So much so that its publishers, the otherwise embattled Archant Media, decided to continue publishing indefinitely beyond its initial four-week run. Spurred on by exclusive comment pieces by the likes of Alastair Campbell, the success of The New European has proven, just weeks after daily paper The New Day folded after launching less than a year ago, that print may have a future after all.

3: Beautiful strength

Tom RathInstead of spending time improving what you aren’t good at, why not focus on what you are good at? A Wall Street Journal bestseller, and second most popular publication in the first half of 2016, pipped to the top spot only by the companion to the Harry Potter stage adaptation, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath is the second iteration of a self-assessment programme, designed to help you find out what exactly it is you are good at, and how to apply those skills.

4: Barbie gets real

After fielding accusations of promoting an unhealthy body image for more than five decades, Barbie got a makeover in January, with three more dolls added to the range in an attempt, the company said, to reflect “a broader view of beauty”. The new range does away with the top-heavy frame and thigh gap, and instead introduces seven new skin tones and a variety of different body types. The move followed two consecutive quarters of falling sales for the iconic doll.

5: High times

And, if that doesn’t work, why not turn to drugs? While last year was all about eschewing time-wasting meal times in favour of liquid replacements, this year nootropics, the name given to a range of cognitive-enhancing substances, are all the rage among the brains in Silicon Valley. The future takes work, after all.

6: Two wheels better

Anyone who has had to travel across a major developed city, pretty much anywhere in the world, will have noticed that 2016 has been very much about the bicycle. Major infrastructure developments make cycling easier and safer and pay-as-you-go cycle schemes have been replicated across the world – including the first such scheme launched in Africa in November, to coincide with the Marrakech Cop 22 environment summit. The winner of this year’s James Dyson Award was a prototype disposable, flat-pack helmet, made from a web of folded paper, which could be sold through vending machines near cycle hire points.

7: Give them shelter

Migration was at the heart of almost all major political discussions in 2016. In November, the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp was flattened, with more than 5,000 adults and 1,900 minors displaced. The problem of how to house the millions of people on the move each year gave rise to one of Time magazine’s inventions of 2016. Developed by flat-pack masters IKEA along with the UN Refugee Agency, Better Shelter is a temporary, lightweight, modular shelter, which it says, offers “peace, identity and dignity”. Most are used in refugee or IDP camps in Africa, Europe the Middle East and Asia.

8: Plastic fantastic

AdidasWhat goes blue, green, blue, green, blue, green? A five-pound note in a washing machine. The redesigned polymer low-domination note, complete with a long-awaited picture of Winston Churchill, was introduced in September 2016. Fit for the 21st century, the new note will last longer – which means fewer will be printed, so is therefore cleaner – and is recyclable. It is harder to counterfeit and strong enough to survive a wash cycle in your trouser pocket. It is the beginning of a large-scale phase-out of paper money, with a new polymer £10 note due this year, and a £20 note in 2020, by which point we’ll probably be paying for the majority of purchases using a multi-use piece of plastic or our phones anyway. Or, you know, a sub-dermal chip.

9: Or not

Sportswear giant adidas turned its back on polymers as it revealed a prototype of its new Futurecraft Biofabric running shoe. Although some polymers are recyclable, adidas told Wired magazine, they also rely on fossil fuels. So it joined forces with AMSilk, which produces a synthetic spider silk called biosteel. Strong, light and clean, AMSilk also produces a special enzyme, which allows consumers to compost the shoe at home in a sink, when they’re ready for a replacement.

10: Getting hygge with it

In a world of fear, upheaval and change, what do we do? Hunker down, apparently. As Autumn 2016 rolled in, the UK embraced a new cultural obsession: the Danish art of hygge. Penguin published one of at least nine books on the subject in 2016. Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way encourages a British audience to embrace the Danes’ aptitude for comfort. Woollen socks, good food, a blazing fire and Netflix, and suddenly the world isn’t such a bad place after all.