I spent two weeks in a city that lives and breathes design. I spent two weeks in and out of museums and galleries, walking for hours a day marveling at the sights around me. Everything was new. And everything was inspiring. I was at the London Design Festival. I’ve been back a week since and I’m still awed by everything I saw and heard.
What astonished me the most was that the festival really did celebrate design. Design as a large, diverse field, not limited to a few branches of it. I’ll admit, when I use the word design, I often think of it as just product design or graphic design. The London Design Festival erased all the boundaries between the various streams of design and celebrated it as something big. Something powerful. Something influential. And something that was everywhere.
Over eight days that flew by faster than I would have liked, I admired fantastic examples of art, architecture, digital installations, clothing, furniture, jewelry, books, magazines, ceramics and so much more. I attended talks that addressed the usual design questions about process, ideation, inspiration and experimentation, but also subjects that are spoken about far less, like the role of women designers today or the way the profession of design has evolved. Very often, we hear of, read about and look at a few pieces of universally celebrated design that we use to define the word. What the London Design Festival did, was celebrate all kinds of design, a lot of which we think about so little. ‘Sweet Instruments of Desire’ for example, showcased cutlery that had been designed to transform the way we experience dessert! ‘Kitty and the Bulldog’ looked at fashion through a historic lens, exploring the evolution of Japanese Lolita styles and how it had been influenced by various cultures, cultural movements and designers over the years. Keiichi Matsuda’s installation, Prism celebrated the city of London through live projections of data.
I was a little shaken after the first two days of looking at such varied examples of design. My interpretation of the word seems so inadequate..so limited. So much I saw included things I hadn’t given much thought to: someone puts in decades of work to perfect the helmets Grand Prix drivers wear. Someone works all year round to develop surfaces that tile our apartments (seen at Tent London. I didn’t know tiles could be so exquisite) For a field that is so vast, and growing so rapidly in scope, so many of us define design by just a fraction of what it really is. Once I started taking all of this in, I couldn’t get enough. Everything around me became much more than what it was. I saw myself thinking about design differently. If I, as a designer, missed out so much when I thought about design, how irrelevant it must seem to non-designers. The London Design Festival made me look at design as hugely extensive and all-encompassing. And I could not be happier that it did.