LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS YOU WON'T
WANT TO MISS
For a sprawling, grey city allegedly peopled only by grumps, London certainly does pretty well in the creativity stakes. Each fall the city cheerfully (yes, cheerfully) celebrates its design bounty with London Design Festival, comprising a vast number of exhibitions, talks, workshops, open studios and trade shows across disciplines including graphics, furniture, architecture, typography and interiors. Expect typographic wine tasting, the art of “gourmet bathing” and gender neutral fragrance sculptures.
Now in its ninth year, LDF has garnered a sibling in the form of the London Design Biennale, which takes place at Somerset House throughout September. The biennale presents installations by teams from 35 different countries around the world, each loosely taking the theme “utopia” to mark the 500th birthday of Thomas More's book of the same name.
Elsewhere, LDF broadly divides the city into several “districts”, such as the Shoreditch Design Triangle, Brompton and the new Brixton District, in which visitors will find all manner of shows, stores and events demarcated by Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa's bright red festival signage. To achieve maximum chair-blindness, there’s also a number of large-scale trade shows such as Decorex, Designjunction and 100% Design.
It's a tricky beast to navigate, and with the best will (or spreadsheet) in the world, its impossible to see everything. So we've put together a list of ten highlights you shouldn't miss if you're into design, want to be inspired and in the big smoke over the coming weeks.
Soak, Steam, Dream: Reinventing Bathing Culture
Designers have long recognised the bliss of the bathtub, and an exhibition at Roca London Gallery showcases the multifarious ways creatives have reinterpreted a good soak. The focus is on “communal bathing culture,” and a highlight is a display of archive material from stunning 70s mag Wet – A Guide to Gourmet Bathing, which not only proposed radical ideas for ablutions, but did so in a way that defined the era’s postmodern graphic design aesthetic.
A bunch of grads from art school Central Saint Martins have taken a cerebral turn, with an exhibition that tries to show new ways design can help make sense of the world. Highlights include Freya Morgan’s illustrations of a world where humans and houseplants swap roles, and Giada Giachino’s stunning sustainable jewellery.
You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels
1966-70 at the V&A
Away from the Liquid Marble and a dramatic reinvention of a clock, the V&A’s finest LDF asset is Revolution?, an all-encompassing look at the late 60s movements around civil rights, new freedoms and social upheavals and how fashion, music and art shaped them. Among the exhibits are copies of underground magazine Oz and an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger.
V&A Dundee, Northern Lights
Bringing their charming accents and design nous all the way from Scotland, a bunch of creatives based north of the border are presenting their work at the V&A. Organised by the V&A’s forthcoming Dundee museum, the pieces look to showcase the strengths of Scottish product design, and the site-specific manufacturing processes that make them possible. Exhibitors include furniture designer Angus Ross, accessories designer Beth Lamont, product and furniture designer Scott Jarvie, and Isabelle Moore, who makes contemporary chairs and swings.
For the uninitiated, “ghost signs” are those gorgeous glimpses of faded type on brickwork where a sign once lay. Sam Roberts is fascinated by these, and knows his stuff, organising Ghostsigns tours around London to show off these barely legible beauties. For LDF, the tours will be joined by hand lettering workshops, and the piece de resistance, Light Capsules– a projection mapped light installation that exhumes graphics of yore, created by experiential designer and 3D artist Craig Winslow.
Studio Makgill x H Furniture
What do you get when you cross a graphic design studio with an upmarket furniture brand? Well, Studio Makgill and H Furniture are about to find out, when the graphics folk have a go at reworking the look of the brand’s WW Chair. Expect bold colour combos when they go on show at designjunction, from 22–25 September.
Sarah Hyndman is a woman who’s just loco about lettering: so much that she founded Type Tasting to explore the role of typography in our lives. She’s found that letterforms can tell us more about who we should date, how much a product costs and even our sense of taste. For LDF, it’s the latter that gets another probing, with typographic wine tasting. For the non-drinkers there will also be events looking at how to pick your dream font, and a “typographic time machine” at the V&A to channel letterforms from the past and future.
Asif Khan, Mini Living Forests Installation
If the gritty urban environment all gets a bit much, architect Asif Khan has the perfect solution: bringing the forest to the streets. In collaboration with small car brand Mini, he’s created three “forests” chock full of plants, aiming to “explore the relationship between public and private space in the city.” They can be found around Shoreditch, and people are encouraged to relax and mingle in these verdant oases.
Blend by Raw Color
Working across photography, textiles, interactive design and print, Eindhoven-based interdisciplinary design studio Raw Color prides itself on innovative yet aesthetically tip-top works. During LDF, Covent Garden’s Aram Gallery will present its solo show, Blend, with standout pieces inducing The Fans- an installation of coloured blades that show how movement can create different color tones.
Zuzu Mengham Sculptures for Laboratory Perfumes
Artist and designer Zuza Mengham has brought the visual back into the realm of the olfactory by creating five sculptures that interpret Laboratory Perfumes’ gender neutral fragrance range. They’re glistening, jewel-like things, and the Sculpting Scent show is at The Conran Shop in Marylebone for the duration of LDF.