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For a week each year the capital buzzes with creativity, fuelled by multiple exhibitions, installations, workshops and more as London Design Festival celebrates London as the design capital of the world. This year some of our team took time out to explore the programme.

First things first; we reviewed the extensive programme: there was so much going on! As well as the big ticket exhibitions, such as 100%, there were design trails through various districts and many smaller events across the capital. In the end we couldn’t agree on what to go to, so we all went our separate ways to cover as much as ground as possible!

Here are some of our highlights.

Design frontiers

This year Somerset House hosted Design Frontiers, an exhibition of over 30 different designers and businesses. It focused on thinking and working practices of each and how they are pushing the boundaries of their respective disciplines.

Trashpresso by Pentatonic

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Upon arriving at Somerset House, you were quickly met by the largest exhibit - a portable and self sufficient plastic recycling unit by Pentatonic. Visitors were especially encouraged to donate any recycable plastic they had with them!

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Normally the company creates furniture from recycled materials, but for the event they were just making tiles from the donated plastics, which were being placed onto the large spheres in the middle of the courtyard.

Please Don’t Feed the Designers by PriestmanGoode

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PriestmanGoode were displaying their award winning design Horizon - for stand up seating on commuter trains, which can increase capacity by a whopping 30%. They are currently testing different materials for the design, which you could try out on the mockup or alternatively in virtual reality using a headset where they could quickly switch materials whilst you looked around the virtual carriage.

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Also on display were the concept visuals they had produced for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, who are one of a few companies racing to build the first working Hyperloop system.

Jaguar

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Jaguar were showing off the design process they used for creating their first electric car, the I-Pace. Showing the journey from initial sketches to concept visuals to a scale model carved from clay.

Looking further forward they also had a 3D projection of their Future-Type concept car, an on demand shared car service in which they envision the concept of how car ownership may work by the year 2040. 

Aicher pictograms for Isny exhibition

Aicher

A really interesting exhibition documenting the decade long project by Otl Aicher to distil all aspects of the town of Isny into a series of pictograms. With a carefully controlled style guide, all manner of aspects, from the scenery and activities through to regional delicacies, are represented in stripped back monochrome images. This flexible family of pictograms could be used by the town's marketing team to creative visual narratives, usually accompanied by short poetic sentences about the town. Created during the 1970s the square pictograms still appear modern and fresh and would not look out of place on Instagram, inspiring work for anyone designing iconography today.

The better letters glowing alphabet peep show

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An intriguing installation, located in the plush lobby of the Hilton Bankside, it felt very much at odds with its surroundings. Described as a "modern curiosity cabinet" through peep holes you viewed 27 sign written letters. Each was by a different artist and in a different style showcasing the range and versatility of this traditional craft.

Design for future

Only a short walk from our London office was the ‘Design for Future’ exhibition in Shoreditch, which explored the future of supermarket shopping experiences. The work exhibited was created by Winchester School of Art & the University of Southampton. The elements that were shared with the public were areas of their research process and a variety of concepts.

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The research

The focus group were the ‘silver shoppers’, individuals within the most aging populations of China and the UK. A range of research methods were used to explore older customers’ shopping habits, behaviour and experiences. Methods used included diary cards, shopping inspection cards, observations and interviews.

They had an immersive shopping experience set up, so, of course, we had to have a go! The aim was to help people understand the difficulties elderly people may face when shopping. With help from the researchers we got set up into the gear provided, weights were strapped to our arms and legs, an elastic band was attached from our feet to hands and we wore simulation gloves and glasses. These items were used to replicate the physical difficulties someone in that demographic may face. The main struggles that stood out for us were the limited ability to grasp and hold onto items and the ability to read the shopping list and find the correct product.

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The findings
There were a range of interesting concepts which looked at solving all kinds of problems shown within their research, but a couple of our favourites are below.

https://www.inclusivedesignforfuture.com/products
https://www.inclusivedesignforfuture.com/

Plywood: The Modern Material

Finally, for one of the team who is more than a little obsessed with all things wooden, the day ended with a trip the V&A and the exhibition Plywood: The Modern Material. This charted the history of plywood, its manufacture, and the many groundbreaking uses it has been put to. This material is the backbone of many projects we’re involved with, in interiors, wayfinding and construction and this exhibition is interesting and extremely informative about this versatile material. Well worth a visit before it ends in November.

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