London design festival 2011

Another year, another design festival… I have attended this for several years now and it’s interesting to see how it has evolved. Usually, the media only focuses on the London fashion week (which happens around the same time), but there seems to be a bit more coverage on the design festival this year.

I think the festival has become more of a global event now, with many international designers participating esp. from Asia ( Korea, Taiwan and Japan). Besides the main venues/organisers like the V & A museum, 100% Design, Tent, Origin Craft fair, Design Junction and Designersblock etc, there were many events and talks happening around town. I always feel exhausted after the days of running across town and even though I tried to pace myself this year, it’s didn’t seem to work. It am not sure if it was even possible to visit all the sites, but I think I have covered enough to feel completely ‘over-designed’ by the end of the week!

My favourites from the festival were several large installations:

Timber wave by AL_A outside of the V & A
It’s hard to miss this huge installation at the enrtance of the museum… it’s dynamic, organic and contemporary, and it merges well with the ornamental entrance without overpowering it.


Textile field by Ronan & Erwan Bourouullec inside the Raphael Court at the V & A

I felt incredibly peaceful sitting on the textile field inside the Raphael Court. Like the designers mentioned, the room has a quality of a church and to my surprising, it worked really well amongst the masterpieces. The interaction between viewers and great art was transformed by this installation, esp. evident seeing smiles on those sitting or lounging on the field.



Reddress by Company at York Hall, Bethnal Green

I attended a talk by Company’s designer, Aamu Song last year at the festival and she came across as a very direct, passionate and sweet person. I love this installation, it’s graceful, powerful and astonishly beautiful. It has already toured around Europe with different singers performing in this dress, I just wished I had known about the concert here earlier… The Finnish design duo’s fashion products are also unique and wonderful, I particularly like their dance shoes for parent & child, so adorable!



I think shows like 100% design has become too commercial in recent years, so it’s hard to find surprises there anymore except for the occasional refreshing designs from countries like Korea and Hungary. With many younger designers moving over to Tent and Designersblock in East London, I think the organisers of 100% design should make more effort to inspire their attendees.

Another issue I saw was the amount of paper used at the festival and I am sure that a lot of the catalogues, leaflets and brochures would end up in the bin. When designers are designing green products and organisers promoting ‘green designs’, should they not also consider the green aspect of their promotional and event materials? I atteneded a trade show in Los Angeles last year and the organiser made a real effort on the eco aspect of the show, from recycling bins to recyclable printed materials and biodegradable badges, it was hard to miss their effort to minimise wastage. As one of the ‘best’ cities in the world, London seems to be very behind with the eco/ green aspect of trade shows and exhibition events. I hope that this is something that the organisers should address next year.




To see more photos from the festival, please click here