London Design Festival 2019 – talks guide

From designing Facebook Messenger to creating the fantasy world of Game of Thrones, these are the must-see talks at this year’s festival.

Kengo Kuma

Material explorations with Kengo Kuma

When: 14 September 2019, 4:40pm-5:30pm

Where: The V&A

Kengo Kuma kicks off London Design Festival (LDF) with his keynote speech, which will explore sustainable approaches to design. That theme will set the tone for many events at this year’s festival, from climate crisis-themed installations to exhibitions. Kuma though will be specifically talking about the research he undertook to design Bamboo Ring: Weaving into Lightness, the bamboo-carbon fibre donut-like structure installed at the centre of the V&A’s John Madejski garden, which marries conceptual and material approaches to design.

Yves Behar

How can design build a better future with Yves Behar

When: 17 September 2019, 4:40pm-5:30pm

Where: The V&A

Swiss designer Yves Behar, the founder of industrial design consultancy Fuseproject, will be talking about balancing commercial and social projects. Behar, who has worked with clients as varied as Puma, Sodastream and Issey Miyake, will explore this sometimes-precarious balance and reveal his approach to design, and how “combining commercial briefs with democratized design can empower communities”.

African design with Hicham Lahlou, Ifeanyi Oganwu and Cher Potter

When: 18 September, 12pm-1pm

Where: Olympia London

In a talk which promises to explore Africa’s “creative force”, a diverse panel will talk about the region’s creativity and craftmanship. Ifeanyi Oganwu founded his own studio in 2008, London Expand Design Ltd, which explores the intersection of architecture and furniture design with a focus on organic materials. Cher Potter’s academic background is in design trends, forecasting and research. Hailing from Morocco, the designer Hicham Lahlou’s new book, African Generation: The Power of Design, will be the centre point of the talk.


Design at Scale: How messenger designs for billions with Facebook’s Raphael Grignani

When: 18 September 2019, 4:40pm-5:30pm

Where: The V&A

How do you design an application that more than 1.3bn people use around the world? Rafael Grignani, the director of product design at Facebook Messenger, talks about just that in a keynote speech which addresses the challenges of designing at scale. The talk will explore the solutions for these challenges and how to stay organised in a high-pressured environment.

Dyslexia and Design with Ab Rogers, James Rokos, Simone ten Hompel and Helen Taylor

When: 19 September, 2pm-2:45pm

Where: designjunction, King’s Cross

A mix of product designers, researchers and artists will discuss designing with dyslexia, and the impact it has on their work, education and careers. It will explore the opportunities and perspective dyslexia has provided them, rather than simply how it has hindered their design careers.

Vivienne Westwood

Sustainability revolution: The role of activism in designing a sustainable future with Vivienne Westwood

When: 19 September 2019, 4:40pm-5:30pm

Where: The V&A

How can the fashion industry grapple with its sustainability crisis? Vivienne Westwood, the British designer, who was awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Medal at this year’s festival as a recognition of her “fundamental contributions to the design industry” over her career will attempt to provide a solution. Westwood’s credentials are impressive. In 2004, she was the subject of the largest ever exhibition dedicated to a living British fashion designer in 2004 at the V&A. And she also has a green streak, from shining a light on climate change at the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony to designing Greenpeace’s ‘Save the Arctic’ logo in 2013. This talk will be a “rallying cry” for those both in and outside the industry to “affect real change”.

Creating worlds with Deborah Riley

When: 20 September 2019, 4:40pm-5:30pm

Where: The V&A

Game of Thrones might have ended this summer but the show’s production designer, Deborah Riley, is adding her expertise to the festival’s line-up. Riley will speak about working on the blockbuster show and how she created the fantasy world which captured so many people’s imaginations — this year’s season finale was the most-watched programme in HBO history. Riley will also be discussing the challenges associated with working at scale.

Teikuhiko with Kenya Hara

When: 21 September, 6:30pm-8pm

Where: Japan House

Kenya Hara, the Japanese graphic designer who is art director of MUJI, will be speaking about representations of his native country in his work. His latest project, Teikuhiko — which means a “low altitude, high resolution tour — explores hidden aspects of Japan’s landscape, from rural retreats and hot springs, and how that impacts design. Hara is also chief creative director of Japan House, the recently opened exhibition and cultural space on Kensington High Street where the talk takes place.

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