Picks of the month: the best design events in May

Our choice of things to do in the coming month include an insight into Camille Walala’s creative process and an exhibition about the history of sneakers.

Online talks: Right Aligned, from Coventry Design Festival

While Coventry Design Festival is not returning until May 2022, the team has devised a series of online talks in an attempt to inspire creative minds during lockdown. Right Aligned has so far had sit-downs with studios including Koto and Two times Elliott, while the upcoming programme promises more candid insights into the world of design. Throughout May, it will be in conversation with Studio Bellow founder Gareth Rutter as well as Orca studio which specialises in branding challenger start-ups. Later in the month, there will be talks with Middle Boop’s Gordon Reid and design studio Sea.

Tickets cost £4.90 and are available to buy on the festival’s website


Exhibition: Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, the Design Museum

Having been delayed multiple times thanks to government restrictions, the Design Museum’s next headline show is finally set to open this month. Sneakers Unboxed will offer a look at one of the most familiar design objects in the world, the sneaker. As well as putting a spotlight on material innovation, the exhibition will explore the object’s cultural connotations throughout the world (from Tokyo to New York) and how the shoe “became the undisputed cultural symbol of our times”. The exhibition will feature early experiments in the sector (such as Nike’s ‘Waffle’ model) and previously unseen prototypes including a shoe that can “breathe” thanks to heat technology from the MIT Design Lab. As the sneaker industry booms, so too has its environmental footprint, and the exhibition will also shine a light on sustainable practices and the world of upcycling.

For more information about museum reopenings and exhibition on in May – including V&A Dundee’s Night Fever exhibition and the Barbican’s spring programme – check out our guide.

Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street runs from 18 May–24 October. Tickets start at £6.50 and more information is available on the Design Museum’s website


Book: Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers, by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Tobias

Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Tobias and Josh Halstead (Princeton Architectural Press, £25)

Extra Bold – which is billed as part textbook, comic book, manifesto and self-help manual – explores the thornier issues in the design industry. Themes include sexism, racism and ableism with topics such as disability theory, typographic binaries and teaching black designers. As well as looking at the history and theory of design, Extra Bold offers practical advice about working in design, which is applicable for everyone according to Lupton. These include internships, working from home, discrimination at work and psychological safety. Throughout, the book features interviews with people at different stages of the career from an array of backgrounds, as well as case studies of celebrated designers. Jennifer Tobias’ illustrations seek to bring a sense of humour and warmth to the serious matters at hand.

Extra Bold is out 13 May and published by Princeton Architectural Press. More information is available on the publisher’s website


Podcast: This Way Up

This Way Up is a podcast for women’s careers featuring interviewees in female leadership from around the world. It’s hosted by creative director Rebecca Rowntree who was prompted to start the series by her frustrations at the lack of diverse voices and stories in the industry. Past guests have included French artist and illustrator Malika Favre as well as graphic designer Annie Atkins. In her latest episode, Rowntree speaks with Camille Walala about her signature geometric patterns and her recent pop-up supermarket. Walala also touches on her lack of confidence and overcoming self-criticism.

You can listen to the latest episode of This Way Up and find previous episodes on podcasting platforms. 


Online platform: What if…?/Scotland

What if…?/Scotland is a project from 25 designers and architects across Scotland charting their dreams and wishes for where they live. The project is a collaboration between architecture and design practice 7N Architects and Architecture & Design Scotland. Local stories are taken from towns across the country, from Edinburgh to Shetland. It’s a response to the Venice Biennale’s theme about living together in the future (and was also supposed to debut at the festival). Now, the exhibition is launching at V&A Dundee and will be made available to audiences remotely. “In the face of a changing and uncertain climate, it’s vital that conversation and participation and ambitious ideas are prioritised when we design our collective future,” project lead Ewan Anderson says. Visitors (in-person or virtual) can also add their own their own hopes and dreams in the “Cloud of Dreams”.

What if…?/Scotland runs from 22 May–21 November. More information is available on V&A Dundee’s website

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