The London Design Festival, taking place at the V&A and throughout London during September, is a celebration of the capital’s status as the global capital of design.
For decades, due to its creative vibe, the city has become a magnet for designers wanting to set up shop and make their visions become reality. The migration and subsequent nuturing culture hasn’t gone unnoticed elsewhere, either; since the Design Festival (londondesignfestival.com) beganin 2002, 80 other cities have set up their own version.
It seems like these days in London, you can’t turn around without falling over a designer of some genus or other. TNT went in search of what it is young designers find so inspiring about London.
Jo Bane, 28 graphic designer
“I feel it’s essential for designers to be aware of new things happening in the industry. The New Blood Exhibition at Islington Design Centre brings together fresh talent from all over the country. It’s got everything from illustration to film, and some of the better exhibitors get snapped up by top creative agencies, so it can be a good way to land your dream job. Plus, seeing all that talent is a great way to keep you on your toes.
“One of the things that stands out to me is how pervasively good design is a part of the city. We can be really proud of that. There are always interesting projects popping up. Boxpark in Shoreditch is an ingenious use of space. It has a great mix of shops and galleries in a compact space, and once you’re in it, it feels tucked away and almost insular.
“I love antiques and vintage goods. As a graphic designer I spend a lot of my day working with fonts – there’s a stall in Camden Passage in Angel that sells hundreds of wooden letterpress blocks of images and letters that are all individually unique. For me, having a palpable version of something you work with everyday in a 2D environment is incredibly valuable.”
David Hill, 27 web designer
“London is so vibrant and full of examples of good design that inspiration can be, and is, found anywhere at anytime. Fashion designer Paul Smith once said: ‘You can find inspiration in everything and if you can’t you’re not looking hard enough’ and I find that’s true.
“I’m fortunate to have worked across so many areas of design. My first taste was doing graphic design projects
as a graduate at Landor Associates on brands, such as Formula 1 and Morrisons supermarket. I’ve subsequently moved into product design, and now web design. London is one of the few places that can afford a person like me the ability to transition so seamlessly between design disciplines.
“One of the most inspirational places in London for me is the Natural History Museum, South Kensington. Not only is the building one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture anywhere, but its contents and exhibits can provide plenty of inspiration if you allow yourself to see it.”
Rob Wells, 27 landscape architect
“My job as a landscape architect takes me anywhere in London and can be dangerous: I’m generally late for most social appointments, because I often find myself wandering off to investigate a new ginnel or square that I pass.
“In terms of current projects in London that I find inspirational or interesting, I think Making Spaces in Dalston is pretty unique. Essentially, it’s a £1m project of 76 micro-projects designed to engage the local community into informing and shaping their local environment. It encourages public engagement all the way through, creating a sense of community ownership.
“I love Northala Fields Park. It’s a modern interpretation of a city countryside park, such as Hampstead Heath. The cost of building it was covered by the income generated from the recycling of construction rubble from around London including the old Wembley site and T5 at Heathrow. It’s a park that isn’t afraid to look designer and manmade; four giant topographical landmarks create an urban countryside of sorts.”
Laura Flanagan, 26 fashion designer
“I’m lucky that, as a fashion designer, not only am I working in the global capital of design, but the fashion capital,
too. It’s seems obvious to say, but being in an environment where you’re surrounded by such a high level of design
of all types, it rubs off on you, and fosters an incredibly creative atmosphere.
“I love Hayes Lane Market in Crystal Palace. It’s a crazy mix of stalls selling old vintage finds, clothes, crystals and collectibles. There is so much visual stimulus, and a tale behind each stall, that your mind can really wander off.
“The Wellcome Gallery in Euston seems to consistently host incredible exhibitions, the latest being Superhuman. Seeing ordinary objects presented in such an innovative way is amazing, and the current exhibition is so related to the recent Paralympics. It’s a small and discreet gallery, there are no huge crowds and the entry is free.
“Meeting other designers is essential, I think – if your work is going to stay relevant. There are hundreds of places in London to meet other creative types, but Frank’s Cafe in Brixton is my favourite: a beautiful view and great drinks, too.”
With more than 200 events taking place at this year’s London Design Festival, there’s something for everyone.
The Digital Design Weekend from Sep 22-23 at the V&A is surely the headline for all forward-thinking design fans out there: there’ll be the opportunity to have your portrait drawn by Patrick Tresset’s Paul the Robot, as well as demonstrations of robotic wearables, plus hacking projects to get involved in.
The Sound Design Talk with Wired magazine (Sept 20) is a lecture about how a greater knowledge of our sensory perceptions are creating trends in design innovation. And Keiichi Matsuda’s installation Prism will surely be a must. This immersive experience is a rendering of the uncharted data flow of London.