Process to product

The crafting of creative ideas, rather than things, is the subject of an exhibition at the London Design Festival. Kate Kilalea describes an innovative approach to an often overlooked part of design work

As part of London Design Festival, design group Scene is hosting an exhibition with a difference. Instead of focusing on the finished product, it is dedicated to the evolution of creative ideas.

Tribute to the breadth of the investigation is the inclusion of bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks, who has plotted out the process of coming up with a novel. ‘The idea is to treat creativity as a broad process,’ says Scene’s founder, Gemma Fabbri, ‘which includes the process of making a story.’

Exhibitions are usually made up of final products shown in frames or on plinths, so the challenge has been for the exhibitors to find a visual language that describes the thinking behind the work.

As well as giving a glimpse of trade secrets, the exhibition reveals how the creative process is sometimes as much about pragmatism as flashes of inspiration.

Graphic designer Edd Cox presents his abstract-looking CMYK prints alongside some simpler prints, which outline how he re-organises time into graphic shapes. The complex webs of lines and layers of colour that make up his final artworks are separated into parts, with simplified black-and-white prints depicting how individual days can be rendered as triangles on a grid, and these triangles can then be combined to create the image of a year.

In the same way as Cox explains how time can be a technique for generating a graphic image, so illustrator and product design team Vonhideki outlines its process of capturing hedonism in furniture. The group’s Columbian Coffee Table has a glass top with an engraved surface pattern designed to trap the white powder. Instead of being displayed as a standalone furniture piece, the table will be set in a den-like room decorated with drapes and seductive lighting, exploring the attraction of the drug-taking rituals which inspired the piece.

Illustrator and designer Emily Forgot is exhibiting objects which feature on her plates, and visitors are invited to mix and match the objects to commission bespoke designs. ‘I make a list of subjects (girl/boy), objects (shoe/umbrella/teapot) and verbs (knitting/rowing /riding) and pick them at random to create the images,’ she says.

These methods for coming up with ideas are interesting compared to Faulks’ flow chart, which describes book-writing as a complex historical cycle in which the author is only a small part.

While Faulks creates the traditional way – with ideas springing up where temperament, history and good, old-fashioned luck meet – many of the other exhibitors treat idea-making as an art in itself. Rather than having eureka moments, the show explores how methods, like cross-fertilising disciplines, can generate creative concepts.

Co-founder Chris Ager points out that exploring ways of presenting creativity could be a useful tool. ‘Concepts are usually about polyboard and images,’ he says, ‘but in some cases there might be value in presenting an idea as a novel instead.’ Some ideas, like the legend of Archimedes discovering water displacement as he stepped into the bath, become more charming in context. Could this be a lesson for more design shows to heed? l

Scene at Crib 5 runs until 21 September, at 303 Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1

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