Those based out of London may be sick of hearing about the London Design Festival. But while we acknowledge other events are taking place outside the capital – not least the Liverpool Biennial – the LDF is an international event and so offers a snapshot of trends beyond the city’s confines.
One of the strongest to emerge this year was the hunger for making things among visitors of all ages and a desire to meet to debate the issues of the day. It’s been brewing for some time – note, for example, the tendency Design Week has been tracking for some time towards hand-drawing among type designers and illustrators, with hand-stitching also now firmly in their repertoire.
Digital production has opened up new opportunities for 3D designers and makers, but it has curtailed the pleasures of hand-modelling. Meanwhile, creative heads bemoan the decline in drawing classes in colleges and express concerns about the impact this could have on design quality. But many LDF events showed these skills aren’t lost and a passion to pursue them remains.
You might expect traditional craft skills to be part of the Anti Design Festival with its mission to revisit the culture of risk and experimentation. Low-tech prototypes by the Fabrats, the wonderfully off-beat ideas generated and realised by Dominic Wilcox and Jon Wozencroft’s hand-painted film workshops were prime examples. There was French collective Bazooka’s first London show at the nearby Aubin Gallery, blending painting and drawing styles, and a subversive graphics show curated by artist Stuart Semple at the Idea Generation Gallery.
But these events were tempered by a liberal dose of newer technologies – not least the /ADF website (embed address?) set up to continue the debates raised at the ADF. And this mixed media aproach was apparent elsewhere in the LDF.
Among the most successful was the Tweetup hosted by Creative Review at the Design Museum. As the title suggests, this was social media-based, but Lego got involved and the building workshops that resulted proved hugely popular.
But making wasn’t just a feature of fringe shows like Tweetup. At exhibition complex Earl’s Court 2 visitors to 100% Design were invited to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Economic constraints may have reduced 100% Design to little more than a trade show, but the Materials element grew in stature this year by allowing folk to get involved . Its legacy includes chewing gum mini-models made by visitors and various other experiments, making it the most frequented hub of 100% Design.
Tom Dixon meanwhile opened up his workshop to visitors to The Dock and some speakers at the Tramshed in Shoreditch focused a bit on the process behind the designs.
It’s great to see such diversity of creative expression in the space of a week. It shows design has moved beyond the slickness once seen as the sole embodiment of good design – though it is happily still there in the well-mannered work of Jasper Morrison, Matthew Hilton, Tom Dixon, Pearson Lloyd and others – to embrace different media. The joy is that while digital design is a key element, it isn’t the only force behind this eclectic shift.