London Design Festival 2020 reveals big names for talks programme

Es Devlin, Paula Scher and Neri Oxman are among the line up for this year’s Global Design Forum, with panels, discussions and workshops taking place online.

London Design Festival (LDF) has announced the line up for this year’s Global Design Forum, its curated thought leadership programme of talks, panels and workshops.

As is to be expected, events will take place online because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (you can read more about the proposed changes to the LDF structure here). The programme will be free to access but viewers will need to sign up to watch their chosen talks.

The Hothouse, LDF

A women-heavy line up

Women appear to dominate the 2020 line up this year, with artist and stage designer Es Devlin giving the featured keynote talk on 15 September. The talk will cover the conception and execution of Devlin’s previous work, while also giving her a chance to address the importance of the arts in times of crisis.

Alongside Devlin, the likes of Pentagram’s Paula Scher, digital design editor at Wallpaper* Sujata Burman and head of design research at Universal Design Studio Cathrin Walczyk, will also be taking to the virtual stage.

Scher will be in conversation with fellow Pentagram partners Dominic Lippa and Eddie Opara on 12 September. Joining the discussion from different corners of the world (Lippa in London; Scher and Opara in New York), the trio will explore the capacity of graphic design to “connect the wider world and change behaviour”.

Meanwhile on 16 September, Burman and Walczyk will speak on a panel about the changing importance of our working environments. With the pandemic having shifted our working patterns, the panel will discuss how “human interaction and collaborative spaces are intrinsic to the future of workplace design”.

Beyond the festival

At the centre of the forum, organisers say, will be the Circular Design Project created in collaboration with business enterprise software company SAP, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and LDF.

The aim of the project is to curate a selection of stories and supporting resources to empower and equip designers and the wider creative community to engage with the circular economy. Such stories intend to explain the principles of circular economy and its benefits, share insights into how technology can help in this journey and showcase organisations already involved in the practice.

These stories will “continue to multiply” after the festival’s end on 20 September. The intention, according to a statement from organisers, is for the action to culminate at next year’s LDF with an installation and exhibition. The stories will then be presented by the LDF team at the UN’s climate change conference (COP26), scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow.

Speakers named for this stage include architect Neri Oxman, fashion designer Anya Hindmarch and representative from brands like Google and Snohetta.

Contributors to the Connected project

Other highlights

Elsewhere more designers will join the forum to discuss other topics impacting the design world such as mental health awareness and sustainability.

Anne Pingreoun, curator and founder of Alter-Projects and Alternative-Thinkers, Lucie Cave, editorial director Bauer Media and Andrew Schapiro, executive creative director at Calm, will be among a panel of creatives discussing the power of design to impact mental health on 16 September.

And off the back of the Design Museum-initiated project Connected, a series of international designers will speak on adapting working practices in lockdown to create a seat and table using sustainable hardwood materials.

Finally, design historians Dr Peter Kapos and Dr Jana Schloze will meet for “a product based rummage” through the history of Braun Design on 17 September.


London Design Festival 2020 takes place from 12-20 September, largely online but with some outdoor activities still going ahead. To find out more about speakers and dates, head to the Global Design Forum 2020 website here.

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