Do design events need each other to succeed?

As the London Design Festival draws to a close it is worth taking stock of a week and a bit that brought together too many events for anyone to expect to attend all of them. It will be interesting to see, for example, whether the Design Business Association chooses to hold its International Design Effectiveness Awards as part of the festival next year, given that the commitment to an evening in Greenwich was hard to reconcile with the number of smaller events, on what was the biggest night of the festival.

For the LDF organisers, the high points of the week must surely have been the contribution made by key politicians. First came the parliamentary ‘soft launch’ at the House of Commons, on a day that will go down in history as the one on which members of the pro hunt lobby stormed the Commons chamber, John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott addressed revellers at the opening party at the British Museum and key European player Neil Kinnock was keynote speaker at the new-look World Creative Forum.

It is great to see our political leaders giving credence to design in this way. However, delegates to the WCF were less impressed by the event overall, which was viewed more as a political think tank than a celebration of creativity. The sad thing, many say, was that the organisers had high ambitions for the forum that weren’t fulfilled. Audience participation was factored in in a big way – a welcome development – but the interaction sessions lacked direction and the promised manifesto hasn’t yet emerged as a legacy of the event.

For many punters the highspot of the festival remains the contemporary furniture and accessories show 100% Design and its fringe events. And it didn’t disappoint. Stands seemed smaller at the show this year – a sign of the times – but the mix was good and the overall quality high.

Meanwhile, its sister building products show 100% Detail has come on a treat. It is aimed at architects rather than designers, but exhibits interesting to both were to be found at the interface of the two events. One was a materials exhibit, showing the great advances that are being made in, say, bark fabrics and cordless LED lighting. The other was a prototype of Priestman Goode’s Yotel! ‘pod’, reminiscent of futuristic concepts originally created in the 1960s, but adapted for the present day as a new business hotel model.

With 100% Design going from strength to strength, does it need to be the centrepiece of something bigger? Do it and other furniture-related events of the LDF sit as well with the WCF’s increasingly political agenda? With communication as its focus, might the new D&AD Congress be a better fit for the Davos-style initiative?

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