We always look forward to getting out and about for London Design Festival. There was something about the 2018 edition, however, that didn’t quite hit the spot. Maybe it’s just us – but we don’t think so, judging by the responses we’ve eked out from our A&D friends.
There’s little doubt that, of the major fairs and exhibitions that help form the festival, designjunction is the most designer-friendly (and before we get hundreds of responses from the Focus and Decorex brigade, please remember that we are a workplace title and therefore, when we say designers, we mean ‘our’ designers – not residential or retail). For that reason, designjunction is very much the focus of our LDF review.
We were intrigued to see the new designjunction home on the South Bank – and who doesn’t love the South Bank? We have to admit, however, that we were slightly underwhelmed – actually, to be more accurate, we were a bit confused. As shows such as designjunction grow (and they only grow because they’ve got something about them), it does of course become increasingly difficult to find interesting, decent, central venues. We know that, historically, designjunction has not been afraid to split itself into a couple of spaces (think back a few years to the Sorting Office in Holborn) and that was also the case this year on the South Bank. What confused us though was who was showing in which of the two main sites – Doon Street and the Bargehouse. And we weren’t the only ones. We actually bumped into designer friends also ‘in limbo’ between the two sites, not sure which they should be heading towards to see certain manufacturers. We even witnessed a couple of visitors who had managed to not even find the Doon Street pavilion, so had simply wandered back to the Bargehouse.
Oh, and it isn’t good to have surly security guys and girls, not allowing entry at 7.30pm when the official closing time is 8pm.
All that being said, we were actually impressed by a number of the furniture companies on show (particularly at Doon Street). It was good to catch up with our friends from Deadgood, Hitch Mylius, Actiu, &New and Workstories.
We also liked what had been done with the South Bank itself. On Queen’s Stone jetty, British designer Steuart Padwick made a dramatic change to the skyline with his 9m high Head Above Water sculpture, in support of mental health and the Mind campaign, Time to Change. On Oxo jetty, the city of Saint-Etienne – in collaboration with Lisa White, Head of Lifestyle and Interiors at WGSN, and designer François Dumas – showcased the Gateway to Inclusion, an immersive installation made out of multicoloured ribbons, which aimed to promote inclusion in design.
Elsewhere, we made best use of our Tube Tamer app in getting ourselves out to Olympia for 100% Design. What’s more, it looked good. Bright and buzzy, it felt nicely curated and extremely accessible. As it was the morning of the big Steelcase/Orangebox announcement, it was great to bump into (and gently wind-up) a couple of ‘O’boxers’, while it was equally great to see our friends from the Meeting Pod Company had made the schlep across from the Isle of Wight. We shouldn’t really complain about that journey from Clerkenwell to Olympia!
We headed back east to the Truman Brewery’s London Design Fair and (please excuse the pun), to be fair, liked a lot of what we saw – although not strictly relevant to this magazine. We did find a number of designers trawling through the fair though, loving a lot of the shiny things on display.