What’s the point of the London Design Festival?

Asks YourStudio co-founder and creative director Howard Sullivan


Now in its 11th year, some might say the festival is losing its edge, becoming too commercial.

Others might say that its supposedly more edgy parts are a case of The Emperor's New Clothes.

I'd disagree with both. I would say that this week, this hullaballoo of artistry, is more vital and necessary to the creative community than ever before. But why? What's the point of the London Design Festival?

10 years ago, London couldn't begin to compete with other global design events such as the Milan furniture fair or New York Design Week [check]. Now, LDF has shone a spotlight on London talent and given it a global stage. Where else would you find a scene which features Karl Lagerfeld's prints and a never ending staircase alongside graduate textiles or metalwork?

Last year, the week attracted some 350,000 visitors to the capital, from over 60 countries, with a wider social audience of millions.

As well as a creative celebration, it's also a business opportunity for the UK economy. 2012's festival made an estimated £25 million in new business revenue.

Beyond the balance sheets and design shows, for me, the London Design Festival is relevant and exciting for three reasons.

First, it's increasingly collaborative. As the Festival has developed over the last decade, we're moving away from the ego-driven design behaviour of old and becoming a more cooperative community. New graduates don't put their elbows over their own work as much. Instead they pull together on shared projects. The recession has driven the collaboration, as designers come together for survival. So too has the networked, sharing, peer-to-peer communication age in which we now live. A stronger, more exciting design scene is the result.

Second, is the opportunity to throw open our studio doors and warehouse windows, to reach out and touch people who want to see pulsing, living art and design. The window installations, open studios and pavement pop-ups that you'll increasingly find around the Festival is our opportunity to have a conversation with people at street level, to bridge the gap between what goes on inside design studios and what could and should be viewed outside.

Third and finally, the Festival is a forum to support, uncover and nurture emerging design talent. They're the ones who'll continue to breathe fire into the vibrant, edgy eclecticism which is the world renowned hallmark of the London design scene.

Ultimately, the week-long London Design Festival celebrates the new, the established, the raw, and the polished. It's the design industry's equivalent of Fashion Week. And in the middle of a recession, the optimism of imagination is a life raft out of form and function.


Howard Sullivan is creative director and co-founder of Shoreditch-based commercial interiors and trends agency YourStudio.

YourStudio has created the Oh Me, Oh My window installation, one of the Shoreditch Desiogn Triangle's key pieces in the London Design Festival. Oh Me, Oh My, a celebration of design and craftsmanship of the British Isles will be at 54 Rivington Street, EC2, from 14-22 September.


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