The Director of the London Design Festival (LDF) has a contemporary office space in red and white, in keeping with the festival’s visual identity designed by Pentagram. Catherine Sidwell met Ben Evans to find out about LDF14 as the new festival guide went to print.
LDF14 invites you to ‘lose yourself in the London Design Festival.’ The visual identity celebrates London’s idiosyncratic arrangement. The maze graphic is a metaphor for the experience of navigating this historic and creative city.
Since 2003, LDF has grown from 70 design events to over 300 in 2014 including the LDF Landmark Project. It is placed within London’s Autumn creative season with London Fashion Week, London Film Festival and Frieze Art Fair and it celebrates and promotes London as the world’s design capital and gateway to the international design community.
Evans is particularly passionate about commissioning designers for festival projects and engaging the public with design in iconic places. LDF14 highlights include the festival’s hub at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). In addition, there are six Design Districts, five Design Destinations, four Design Medals and the Global Design Forum.
The festival program illustrates the breadth of design talent and specialisms in the UK and overseas. Contemporary design has always been at the heart of the V&A. The museum’s founding principles in 1852 (following the Great Exhibition) were to make art available to all. With a focus on education it also aimed to inspire British designers and manufacturers with its diverse collections. Designers from its mid-Victorian beginnings to the present have used the V&A as a source of ideas.
Design Districts extend the reach of the festival to the north, west and east of the City of London. The Global Design Forum provides a curated series of topical discussions. Exhibitions of established and emerging designers work at the Design Destinations attract international buyers in addition to festival attendees.
Back in 2006, Sir Terence Conran, British designer, restauranteur and entrepreneur commented on LDF and the Milan Triennale:
‘What is important for me about the design festival is that it does for London what the Triennale used to do for Milan. When I was a struggling young designer, we used to save up for the trip to Milan, which was the highlight of the year. We used to get into our run down old cars and go off to Milan and live on plates of spaghetti, which felt like caviar because it was so exciting to be in Milan. The Triennale educated us extraordinarily well and I think the London Design Festival is now doing that for designers of all nations. I mean they understand the pleasures of being in London and now have a huge number of things to see.’
One month after London hosted the Olympics Games in 2012 and the flames of Thomas Heatherwick’s mesmerising Olympic Cauldron were extinguished, LDF celebrated its 10th year. LDF broke its own records for the number of events and attendance.
At the end of September 2012, a ripple went through the design community when Julie Lasky reported in the New York Times ‘Apologies to Milan and Tokyo, Regrets to Stockholm and Paris. Forgive me, Eindhoven, Berlin, Barcelona and, most particularly, New York. But London is the design capital of the world.’
Dezeen’s editor in chief Marcus Fairs, responded that he and many senior designers do not agree ‘as yet.’ For them Milan is still ‘the paramount get-together of the year and the place where the key product launches take place.’ However, Fairs noted ‘London is ten times the size of Milan but the London Design Festival is ten times easier to comprehend.’
Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans have steered the festival from the start. Evans notes it’s beginning to feel like a super tanker. Both are aware of the value and contribution of design across varied disciplines. Today the UK’s creative industries, worth more than £70 billion are one of Britain’s fastest-growing sectors and provide nearly two million jobs.
In 2013, LDF attracted over 350,000 dedicated attendees from over 60 countries. The LDF program at the V&A attracted over 97,000 visitors. Dr Martin Roth, Director of the V&A welcomes the transformation of the museum’s galleries with installations and interventions. ‘The Museum is the festival’s hub for the sixth time in 2014 and we look forward to hosting it for the sixtieth and beyond!’
For nine days in September, London Design Festival provides a platform which celebrates, presents, discusses, debates and invites designers, students, businesses and the public to engage with design.
There is an energetic and dynamic atmosphere in the capital as thousands of visitors drop in on hundreds of events and international designers participate, gaining global media attention. Marc Newson received the London Design Medal in 2008, Evans extends an invitation to Australian designers to participate in LDF in the future.
LDF is currenlty on in London and will end on 21 September.