Cent’s Guide to London Design Festival 2018

By Rebecca Irvin


London Design Festival (LDF) is a melting pot of creative minds. Artists, inventors, designers and organisations from all over the world gather to share their manifestos, exchange ideas and discuss the latest developments in design, technology and applied arts. Sixteen years on from its inauguration, LDF is now one of the most prominent and established annual celebrations of ingenuity and artistry in the world of design.

When they founded the festival in 2003, Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans wanted to establish an event that would attract thinkers, artists and designers from across the globe to create a hub of international artistic activity in the heart of London which would promote the city’s central role in design innovation. This fundamental purpose still stands today. From the 15th to the 23rd of September, London will host an array of exhibitions, displays, talks, events and product launches in various locations across the city from national and international designers, as well as opening the doors of its local venues for contemporary creative activity.

The need for green, eco-friendly design is more urgent than ever. A key aspect of LDF is its focus on how the progressive modernisation and urbanisation of our planet can occur in harmony with the conservation of the natural world. It is the goal of modern innovators to uncover design solutions which nurture and protect the world we inhabit while also working towards technological, cultural and social development. As such, many of the festival’s exhibits, products, installations and discussions will approach design from the perspective of sustainability.

This year, there also is an added emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility in new technologies which embrace diversity and enable participation in design development. Installations such as Lisa White’s Gateway to Inclusion celebrate LGBTQ+ creativity, while Steuart Padwick’s Head Above Water seeks to promote the importance of discussions about mental health. Meanwhile the Design Museum’s Mind Pilot signals a momentous and truly revolutionary move towards the facilitation of less able-bodied persons in the operation of machinery and devices.

We at .Cent are here to provide you with a comprehensive guide to the best of what LDF 2018 has to offer, from revolutionary inventions to immersive and experiential public art installations. Stick with us to make the most of this veritable carnival of creativity!

Key Sites:

LDF happens all over London, with displays popping up in both tiny compact spaces and in huge warehouses. Below are some of the festival’s most established design venues and coordinators that will be hosting multiple exciting events over the course of the week.

V&A, Festival Hub
For ten years now, the V&A has been the epicentre of LDF. Check out the museum’s extensive programme of talks and events, including hands-on workshops and guided tours, as well as design-related exhibitions and installations.


V&A: Tapestries Gallery

Decorex, Syon Park
In another key location for the festival, Decorex is hosting an interior design event to display products from some of Europe’s finest furniture-makers, lighting specialists, textile manufacturers and ornament designers. There will also be talks, panel discussions and interviews held throughout design week.

Champagne Bar by Shalini Misra at Decorex

Decorex: Champagne Bar by Shalini Misra

100% Design, West Kensington Design District
100% Design are all about the new, the ground-breaking, the cutting-edge in design. Their main show this year, held at the core of West Kensington’s Design District and titled ‘100% Futures’, aims at promoting up-and-coming designers whose work envisions the futures of city-dwelling. There will also be projects and talks in collaboration with established designers, making 100% Design an essential destination for anyone interested in learning about the design industry in a forum which celebrates heritage and development.


100% Design: Marco Covi

designjunction, South Bank
Designjunction takes place over four days during design week, and this year will host a huge pop-up design fair alongside public installations along London’s South Bank such as a rainbow ribbon walkway – Lisa White’s Gateway to Inclusion – along a Thames jetty. There is also a varied exhibitions and talks programme hosted by the Oxo Tower Wharf and Bargehouse.


designjunction: Nolii

Focus/18, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour
Focus/18 has made a name for itself as one of the festival’s main creative participants with their thrilling programme of over one-hundred workshops which encourage visitor participation in learning about the latest design trends. Head to Chelsea Harbour’s Design Centre and get inspired!

Focus 18

Focus/18: display at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour

London Design Museum, Kensington
The Design Museum’s theme for the festival this year is ‘belonging’. Over the week, the museum will host a multitude of events and discussions which collectively meditate on the inclusivity and accessibility of design to promote the universal appeal of new technologies.

Exhibitions, Displays and Experiences:

From art, craft and architecture to interior decoration and lighting displays, exhibitions and displays showcasing some of the finest work in local and global design are popping up in venues all over London.

London Design Biennale, Somerset House
The London Design Biennale 2018 takes place at Somerset House. Participants from six different continents are invited to interpret the theme ‘Emotional States’ by drawing on their cultures, societies and histories to produce artworks, installations, design solutions and interactive fixtures. Take a trip around the world through design!

emotional states

Emotional States: Surprise, Anger

Sugarhouse Open Studios
At the latter end of design week, Sugarhouse Studios, a creative workspace for artists, designers, architects, carpenters, musicians and ceramicists (to name just a few) will be open to the public. Head to the Bermondsey site to explore the various workshops in the setting of a former school, complete with a repurposed swimming pool.

Graphic design studio Pentagram has commissioned a project which draws on the experimental Cubist camouflage designed by Norman Wilkinson for use on ships during the First World War to bewilder enemy vessels. The V&A’s Creative Studio is to be dazzle-bedecked throughout the festival.


Pentagram: Dazzle

South East Makers Club
During the first weekend of LDF, The South East Makers Club will take over Deptford Market Yard to exhibit the artistic talent of South East London. The non-profit organisation celebrates creativity among the local community of artists and designer-makers by showcasing a diverse range of work as well as hosting events such as a design-themed supper club, a sketching tour of the local area and a Designer Pub Quiz.

Memory and Light
In the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room, a composer and designer come together to create a piece which stretches between artistic disciplines. Composer Arvo Pärt often draws an analogy between his music and the colourful refraction of light through a prism. In collaboration with Arup, Pärt has brought a rainbow of light to the Music Room which will be on display for the duration of design week.

memory and light

Arvo Pärt x Arup: Memory and Light

The Foscarini Rooms
Lighting innovator Foscarini is taking over the Oneroom Gallery house to create an immersive display of light and colour. Each room will be devoted to a different colour which will be filtered through various lighting technologies. A stimulation of the senses and an exploration of the ways in which chromatics interact with and influence the emotions.

Time for Tea
Fortnum & Mason, alongside Dutch designers Scholten & Baijings, are bringing together the world of contemporary interior design and the traditional British ritual of tea in an immersive installation. Over nine days, visitors are invited to a tea party at Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly store which will feature over eighty tea-related products and paraphernalia.

time for tea

Scholten & Baijings x Fortnum & Mason: Time for Tea

Open House London, 2018
Coincident with design week (although not strictly part of it), Open House London (22-23 September) invites the public to explore over eight-hundred buildings of architectural and artistic note. With guided tours, walks and talks, Open House London aims at showcasing the best of design integral to our city.

Showcases and New Products: 

In the world of design, thinkers and craftspeople are constantly working to create products that are more lightweight, more compact, more accessible, more chic, more modern, more ergonomically viable and more environmentally sustainable. Here are just a few of the products being launched in time for LDF, and the designers behind them.

The Conran Shop, Vitra, Knoll and Carl Hansen & Søn
Just in time for LDF, the Conran Shop has launched a series of exclusive products from designers Vitra, Knoll and Carl Hansen & Søn. The products fantastically merge classic, iconic designs with innovative techniques, materials and craftsmanship. Take Vitra’s version of Charles & Ray Eames’ 1950 fibreglass chair, for example: the classic form is retained but has been recreated according to the most current fibreglass technology to achieve the highest levels of comfort when sitting. There are attractive details, like the seat’s visibly fibrous surface, which attest to the authenticity of the materials. The chair is a classic for a reason, and Vitra’s updated edition pays homage to its legacy while keeping it relevant to contemporary design. Another key piece is Knoll’s pedestal Tulip Table, a design created by Eero Saarinen in 1956 which has since been a cornerstone product in Knoll’s range. This year, Saarinen’s design has been realised in a marble finish as part of a limited edition series of just sixty tables. Carl Hansen & Søn’s contribution to the Conran Shop’s exciting product launch comes in the form of three modern takes on chair designs by Hans J. Wegner and Kaare Klint: Wegner’s Wishbone Chair and Shell Chair and Klint’s Propeller Stool, Safari Chair and Footstool, reimagined in choice materials like Hiut Denim Co.’s signature organic fabric. The product launch celebrates the best of twentieth-century design, with an utterly contemporary flourish.

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The Conran Shop: Vitra, Knoll and Carl Hansen & Søn

Product Showcase: London Design Fair at Old Truman Brewery
One of the best places to explore what contemporary design has to offer in terms of interior furnishings and ornaments is the London Design Fair held at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Showcasing original, elegant pieces produced by designers and brands from thirty-six different countries, the fair is the perfect opportunity to see the incredibly diverse range of products currently trending in the industry. With representation from retailers, architects, artists, textile-workers, graphic designers, woodworkers and lighting innovators, the fair promises to be hub of creative energy.

London Design Fair

London Design Fair: Old Truman Brewery

Joyce Wang, FLINT
Joyce Wang’s brand new limited edition collection of furniture, tableware and ornamental objects crafted from the composite material terrazzo and realised in bold, geometrical forms with curving silhouettes, concave dips and sharp, defined planes. The designs are beautiful in their humble, effortless simplicity. Rings and bold lines of embedded metal lend them a sophisticated final touch. Festival visitors are invited to view the pieces at Wang’s London studio throughout the week – sign up online for the complimentary ice cream (yes, really!)

Lit_20180604_Joyce Wang product_0037

Joyce Wang: FLINT

Product Showcase: designjunction at Oxo Tower Wharf
designjunction are joining up with the already design-packed Oxo Tower Wharf to launch new brands and products, host events and participatory workshops, and provide a forum for makers and innovators from different artistic disciplines to come together in celebration of design.

Erik Jørgensen_Ovo chair.

designjunction at Oxo Tower Wharf: Erik Jørgensen, Ovo chair

Public Art Installations:

As well as exhibitions and showcases, some of London’s most iconic public spaces are becoming home to large-scale installations, some beautiful, some practical, some bizarre, and all utterly ingenious.

The famous curve of Regent Street is not just an architectural emblem of London’s West End shopping district; it is also significant for the way in which the street’s design alters the path taken by wind as it blows between the facades of the buildings on either side. Trace aims to make this airstream-activity visible with an undulating, dynamic installation at rooftop-height which will respond to both wind and light and move with the rhythms of the natural world.


Regent Street: Trace

Head Above Water
Steuart Padwick’s nine-metre-high wooden sculpture will be installed at Queens Stone Jetty on the Southbank for the duration of the festival. It depicts a gender-neutral head gazing out over the Thames and is intended as a symbol of courage, compassion and positivity in promotion of mental well-being. Head Above Water is conceived of in support of Time to Change, the charity campaigning to eliminate prejudices surrounding mental health issues. A thoughtful, engaging and important piece.


Steuart Padwick: Head Above Water

Kellenberger-White, a graphic design studio based in London, has created twenty-six alphabet chairs to fill Finsbury Avenue Square. Each chair is a different colour and a different letter, all rendered in industrial metal. The public are invited to interact with the installation and move letters around to make words – no expletives please!


Kellenberger-White: Alphabet

Please Feed the Lions
Artist Es Devlin is famous for her sculptures which combine elements of light, sound and digital projection. For LDF18, she has collaborated with Google Arts & Culture on the installation of a fifth, red fluorescent lion among the four maned beasts which lie already at the base of Nelson’s Column. This lion is interactive; throughout the day, it will roar words of poetry chosen by the public which, at night, will appear in LED lights in the lion’s mouth as well as being projected onto Nelson’s Column.

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Es Devlin: Please Feed the Lions

In collaboration with Waugh Thistleton Architects, engineering company ARUP, and the American Hardwood Export Council, The V&A’s Sackler Courtyard is due to house an interactive, maze-like structure with multiple floors and compartments to explore. Think of it as a designer’s playground.


Waugh Thistleton Architects x ARUP x American Hardwood Export Council: MultiPly

The Onion Farm
In the V&A’s long, narrow, dimly-lit Tapestries Gallery, designer Henrik Vibskov is installing an airy, woven sculpture that undulates along the whole length of the gallery. Colourful brush-like textiles and reddish ‘onions’ protrude from the structure into the gallery space, as if an organic process is taking place among the ancient tapestries.


Henrik Vibskov: The Onion Farm

Mind Pilot
What better place to experience the heights of cutting-edge design technology than London’s very own Design Museum? The museum’s atrium is set to be filled with a huge helium-filled airship as part of an interactive installation. It might look like a giant balloon, but what makes this globular structure so exciting is its capacity to be piloted by the power of your mind. The pilot wears a device which measures brain waves and triggers motion in the balloon. Tickets are free on a first-come-first-served basis and available from the museum itself, so get down there if you want to be a part of this incredible and truly futuristic installation!

Mind Pilot_Final

Design Museum: Mind Pilot

A Fountain For London
Michael Anastassiades’ prototype for a new drinking fountain, which will be on view in the gardens of the V&A, aims at recovering the culture of the public drinking fountain in London. In a world that is finally waking up to the harmful effects of plastic on the natural environment, A Fountain For London seeks a solution in elegant design.


Michael Anastassiades: A Fountain For London

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