London Design Festival 2019

“First established in 2003, the London Design Festival is a yearly event that showcases and celebrates the city’s creativity and highlights it as the ‘design capital of the world.’ Every year, they attract incredible thinkers, talkers, designers, companies, retailers, educators, and more. The Festival brings together an incredible number of people in numerous disciplines for the sake of human-focused design and art.
This year, the Festival has expanded further, now with installations in 14 Design Districts (2 more than last year) and five Design Destinations in different areas of London. There’s a lot to digest, so here’s a quick breakdown of how it all works and what you can do.
The Festival is going to be running from the 14th to the 22nd of September 2019, and there are 400 events and exhibitions to go to. Last year, there were over 580,000 people from over 75 countries that deliberately came to see the Festival, with an additional 600,000 passersby who would have seen or interacted with the displays.
If you just want a quick taster, you can visit their website and look at the different events that they have in your local Design District. This is less effort but will still provide you with plenty to see and enjoy.
Design Districts are focused groupings of events and exhibitions in different areas of London, specifically designed to be within close distance of each other, and allows for easier navigation. There are also often discounts and interactions with local companies and stores in the area, so you may be able to buy discounted coffee that was roasted in front of you.
If you want to see something more curated, you can visit either the Landmark Projects, the V&A Projects, the Festival Commissions, or the Special Projects. The Landmark Projects were introduced in 2007 and are commissioned works that are installed in major locations across the city. The V&A Projects are formed from a collaboration with the museum and have been going for over 11 years. The Festival Commissions are designed installations that occur across the city. The Special Projects have started this year and will be promoting different installations.
The two Landmark Projects this year are Please Be Seated, by Paul Cocksedge at Finsbury Square, and Sea Things, by Sam Jacobs at the entrance of the V&A. Please Be Seated is a massive installation of scaffolding planks that were curved so people can sit on some parts and walk under others. Cocksedge said that he wanted it to ‘[occupy] the square without blocking it’. Sea Things is a large two-way mirrored cube hanging from the ceiling. Within the cube is an animation co-created with Rory Cahill which aims to ‘reflect an infinity that seems both as wide as the ocean and as large as the challenges we face’, especially in concern with single-use plastics.
There are 14 exhibitions at the V&A this year, from the Exhibition Road street celebration to Kengo Kuma’s Bamboo Ring: Weaving into Lightness. These explore concepts of precision, lightness, strength, flexibility, pliancy, sustainability, and more. Bamboo Ring is created by laminating bamboo rings with carbon fibre, which again links to concepts of rigidity and architecture.
The 4 Festival Commissions this year can be found across London. Make sure to see Void, which was a partnership between designer Dan Tobin Smith, creative studio The Experience Machine, and Gemfields, presented at Collins Music Hall in Islington. The exhibition is a series of massive projections of Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds, massively enhanced so the small gems become abstract galaxies of colour and detail. The projections are accompanied by the female electronic drone choir NYX who created an ethereal score of layered harmonised voices.
If you want something more than the exhibitions, you can also attend one of the many talks or events that the London Design Festival is hosting. One of the major ones is the Global Design Forum, which will also be taking place over the 2 weeks at the V&A. Speakers will talk on biodesign to digital futures, the talks are incredibly interesting and worth engaging in, especially as many of these people will have influence or are trying to influence the way the future of design moves.”