London Design Festival 2023

London Design Festival 2023 brought a vibrant display of creativity, innovation and community to diverse venues across the city. Our team of strategists and designers set out to explore some of the many exhibits. Here we share some of the work which excited and intrigued us under three future themes; 

Material Systems

Digital Identities

Participatory Play

Materially Better

Material led design continues to dominate the conversation, urging us to consider material as system- the role of designer and brand as stewart. 

Material Matters at the Oxo Tower platformed an impressive range of companies with thoughtful use of material technology at the core of their business model. The Bello! Bench by Hydro uses 90% post consumer aluminium, highlighting the importance of material and manufacturing literacy within the design process. Speaking at the event Franklin Till spoke of the mindset shift and systems thinking required to embody regenerative principles in our products and services.

Elsewhere, The Time is Running Out exhibition staged a poignant display of countdown clocks made using 24 plastic alternative materials. Urging businesses and designers to consider material selection at the outset of development and demonstrating how intelligent and informed use of material can contribute both meaning and value.

Local Vernaculars

Building on the theme of material stewardship, brands are exploring ways to combine locally sourced materials with contemporary and regional design vernaculars, making distinct products which support localised infrastructures with a global influence.

Atelier100, a division of IKEA championing new retail models, hosted their Drop02 in a pop up venue in Hackney. A satellite of their Hammersmith flagship, Atlelier100 are an incubator for makers and designers celebrating the rich tapestry of London based local creatives. From homewares, to jewellery and fashion, made to order pieces ensure production never exceeds demand.

Are You Mad, curated a selection of furniture and objects made with waste plastic sourced from businesses based within a 250 metre radius of the venue in London's Soho. Turning single-use plastic waste into multi-use products, they aim to challenge the perception of material value, while encouraging networks of reciprocal exchange within the local community.

Digital Sensibilities

As AI becomes embedded in our everyday lives, researchers and designers are exploring how we interface and understand the presence of these technologies. 

VA-PEPR is a joint research group lead by HSLU and stands for ‘Voice Assistants- People, Experiences, Practices, Routines'. Exploring user experience and ethical issues around the use of this technology in our private lives and domestic spaces. As part of Digital Design Weekend at the V&A, they illustrated the flow and use of personal data which is typically hidden and posed a creative challenge of the tech- with surprisingly poignant results!

Moooi x EveryHuman invite us to develop an algorithmically generated perfume. Based on mood, a personalised scent map was created, this translated to become a unique olfactory formula. We were excited to see data used as a type of emotional GPS- creating opportunities to capture a coordinate for a specific time, place and ambience.

A.uthentic I.nteraction

New modes of interaction are coming on stream which allow for naturalistic manipulation of digitally augmented worlds. As our lives become more phygitally hybrid, themes of safeguarding, accessibility and removal of bias within our data sets remain urgent.

Tangible Illusions: The Soft Boundary of Life by Huichan Wang explores the experience of digital touch. Using a combination of computer vision and physics simulations to design an experience which brings a human sensibility to the digital domain. Translating the unique movement of your hand- a touchless gesture blurs the line between digital and physical interaction. 

Also shown at Digital Design Weekend at V&A was Behind the Curtain: Understanding The Zizi Show- a Deepfake Drag Cabaret. Using datasets made in collaboration with queer communities to create a generative cabaret experience- it highlights the dangers of bias and lack of representation within AI models, and how these technologies have the power to both enhance and erase identities.

New Perspectives

As a celebration of creativity, some brands and LDF exhibitors chose to celebrate the process of making and doing- inviting guests to explore their worlds in revealing and novel ways.

Soar Running, a sports and material tech focused, running apparel company based in London, hosted a number of events including a panel talk exploring 'Running: A Creative Approach' aswell as a number of Running Tours of the Festival. Engaging and experiential, a refreshing addition to the LDF schedule inviting us to experience the Festival in new ways.

PLAY at Optical Arts featured a number of deceptively simple displays which invited the viewer into the creative process, creating layered optical worlds which reveal more of the story the more you look! These visual experiments traced a line from creative spark to commercial application, giving LDF guests an intriguing insight into the power of play.

Crowd = Source

How can we translate interest into actionable input, developing products which are truly informed by and responsive to the user? In fun and impactful ways, this is one of the questions explored at LDF 2023.

In the epic surrounds of St Pauls Cathedral- Aura by Pablo Valbuena responds to the presence of the crowd, reflecting movement and sound in the space through a poetic architectural beam of flickering light through the central space. Beautifully illustrating how the people within bring life to a space.

At the Vitra showroom, a joyful display of reimagined stools induced delighted responses from visitors. Through a process of community workshops, architect Daisuke Motogi invited suggestions to reinvent Stool 60, an icon of furniture design by Alvar Aalto. From functional to ridiculous, the boundless potential for its evolution reestablished the stool as a beacon of timeless design.

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