Design comes out fighting in a show full of promise

Cutbacks notwithstanding, the London Design Festival brought a buzz to the capital last week with a sense of optimism that was palpable. All credit is due to the LDF team, which made it happen against the odds.

There was a discernible shift in focus this year from the twin strongholds of 100% Design and Tent London towards newer attractions. Highlights included interaction conference i-Design, now in its third year; the collaboration between writers’ groups 26 and International Pen with Pentagram partner Harry Pearce and digital group All of Us to create dialogue through design; and the Typographica retrospective at the Kemistry Gallery, reminding us to look around for evidence that typography is far from dead. Meanwhile, Tom Dixon’s new base, the Dock in west London, has the makings of a new hub for design.

A theme running throughout was design’s entrepreneurial nature. This was writ large in the British Council’s ‘young design entrepreneur’ contests. Rami Farook, winner of the international prize, was described as ‘frightening’ in his talent by one of the judges, while the five contenders for the UK title display a breadth of interests which bodes well for the future (25 September, www.designweek.co.uk).

But entrepreneurialism wasn’t only evident at the British Council. It was all around, making light of BBC Two’s lacklustre TV series Design for Life, fronted by Philippe Starck.

Design is still strongly represented by the object at the LDF, rather than seen in a broader context, but not always. Take the Greengaged series at the Design Council, raising sustainability issues, and Swiss designer Yves Behar, who spoke about his holistic deals with start-ups in California’s Silicon Valley that put ground-breaking design in a bigger framework.

Behar and others are exerting an influence on design’s future that is often obscured by traditional ‘show and tell’ events. Let’s hope they get even stronger representation at next year’s LDF – and in the media in the meantime.

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