The Global Design Forum began in 2012 as part of the annual London Design Festival. Described as a major ‘thought-leadership’ event, it aims to open up discussions and debate about the role of design in a sustainable and prosperous future. Over five days, the Forum explored the impact of design on politics, economics and education. Curated talks and presentations involved over 30 speakers with varied backgrounds in the arts, business, design and education. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend events staged in 18th-21st century locations across London.
The high-tech DIY culture of the maker movement has expanded at pace in recent years. Daniel Charny, director of From Now On, curated the exhibition The Power of Making with the Crafts Council at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 2012, which attracted over 320,000 visitors. He gave a passionate presentation to kick off debate on Democracy in Design: The Modern Makers, at Protein studio.
Paul Smyth studied engineering for four years but realised it was in childhood that he had made the most things. Last year, with a desire to find “affordable space for people to make stuff” in London, he co-founded Makerversity, where makers can learn skills and create work. Ben Alun-Jones, co-founder of Knyttan has been working to democratise fashion design and manufacture. With the aid of digital technology, individual designs for knitwear can be created at the Factory of the Future.
Attendees were welcomed to Mayfair for Collecting Design: The Evolution of Collector and Maker. ‘Mete’ at Mallett positioned contemporary design along-side exquisitely crafted 18th century antiques in the former London palace built in 1772 for Edmund Keene, Bishop of Ely. Surrounded by high price tag pieces coveted by collectors, museums and clients, stories of significance behind objects were discussed.
The V&A hosted Five Ideas to Shake the World which gave entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their innovations to an expert guest panel. Nearly 150 years on from the completion of the V&A’s lecture theatre where the session took place, innovations included concepts to provide an edible alternative to plastic water bottles, methods to diagnose eye disease using smart phone technology, how to save bees and the harnessing of energy from footsteps.
Vicky Richardson current Architecture Design and Fashion Director at the British Council chaired Curating design: advances in exhibition programing. This session considered how to bring design alive for a contemporary audience whether in museums, galleries, public spaces or shopping malls. The GDF Masterclass session took place at the Purcell Room, Southbank. Liam Casey, Founder and CEO of PCH International spoke to Tom Cheshire, Technology Corespondent at Sky News and Associate Editor at WIRED. Casey discussed the development of his business which delivers premier products to the world’s best brands.
David McCandless, the London-based data-journalist and information designer illustrated his presentation with erudite, engaging and amusing info-graphics from Information is Beautiful and his latest book Knowledge is Beautiful. To conclude the session, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of the Arts Council England reflected on funding and support for the arts in the current economic climate with author and analyst Andrew Simms.
Sir John Sorrell, Founder of the London Design Festival is the Chair of the Global Design Forum. One of the UK’s leading design figures, together with his wife Frances he ran a successful international design business: Newell and Sorrell. In 1999, they set up the Sorrell Foundation with the aim of inspiring creativity in young people.
A former Chair of the Design Council he is currently a Trustee of the V&A. His passion for design and belief in the value of the creative industries to individuals, the UK and global economies is clear. As part of his welcoming speech at the Masterclass session he noted that since the London Design Festival began, 100 cities around the world now hold an annual design festival.
“Design is being debated in cities all around the world all the time. Now this can only be a good thing because the more people talk about design, the more we’ll uncover new ways of thinking about doing it. Young designers will be inspired and I think we will start to find some solutions to some of the very difficult problems the world faces, because design can have an extraordinary impact on the world.
Sorrell invited attendees to gather again for the twelfth Global Design Forum to see if it becomes as successful as London Design Festival. He commented: “The Forum is about ideas and our future as a global community. It’s therefore vital that the discussion is a truly global one and whilst London and the September Festival will always be an important anchor for the Forum, we’re very much hoping to stage more events internationally in coming years.”