The consensus among seasoned showgoers was that 2002 wasn’t 100% Design’s greatest year. While London’s 2001 show was a high-spot in an otherwise subdued autumn, subsequent world economic pressures were showing all too clearly at Earls Court 2 last week in exhibits that were generally safe and samey.
You have to admire the exhibitors for battling on in difficult trading times and for supporting the UK’s premier design showcase, and there was much there that was excellent, if not altogether new. UK companies Ideal Standard, Bisque and Stringer are among those that continue to show their commitment to design in areas that are key, though not necessarily sexy – bathrooms, radiators and shelving systems respectively.
Our hats also go off to the organisers for their perseverance against the odds. But you have to question the thinking of a selection panel that admitted sheepskin hot water bottle covers to 100% Design this year, along with other kitsch exhibits, presumably to fill the hall.
All credit to the organisers too for roping in some of the main fringe events under the 100% Guaranteed banner. However, the real energy and quirky, if often improbable innovation remains with Designersblock – though it suffered from having two sites this year, Hoxton being far superior to the Thames-side venue.
A couple of strong themes came through the week. At 100% Design, art for interiors manifested on a couple of stands – for example, in the curved screens from new company Off the Wall that featured work by artists Duggie Fields and Chris Long (DW 12 September). At 100% Design and at Designersblock, clever use of materials meanwhile added intellectual rigour. Bobo excelled at 100% Design (DW 19 September), while Georg Baldele continues to inspire and delight at Designersblock and Gitta Gschwendtner’s experimental collaborations were evident at both. Materials producers are proving to be valuable collaborators in design.
Collaborations and crossovers account for some of the biggest design stories right now, involving art, technology or complementary creative disciplines. Car companies are leading this (DW 26 September), but at Designersblock fashionable graphics group Graphic Thought Facility won acclaim for its crossover into 3D with a simple cardboard storage system, MeBox.
100% Design and Designersblock have their shortcomings, but together they form a major international design ‘happening’ for London. John Sorrell and his team at London Design Festival would do well to take that into account when planning their event. Why ignore the momentum that these shows have built up among designers, clients and the public?