Editor’s pick: what’s on at London Design Festival 2023

London Design Festival is about bring the design community one of the most immersive and interactive design festivals. To help you navigate through the noise, Editor Hamish Kilburn shares his editor’s pick on what to look out for…

SCP, Darren Appiagyei, Goldfinder and Wood Awards_Material Matters 2023_materialmatters.design (6)

Look alive, London! London Design Festival 2023 (LDF 23), which takes place on September 16 – 24, turns 21 this year – a celebration that will be marked aptly by it celebrating the best UK design has to offer.

With a vibrant and thought-provoking programme of events, exhibitions and installations, LDF 23 will once again provide a vital platform for designers and creative businesses to showcase their work. This year’s edition will continue to foster growth and excellence in the sector, building on a two-decade-long legacy and commitment to promoting and supporting the UK’s design community.

London Design Festival poster 2023

Image credit: Pentagram

“The London Design Festival continues to provide an invaluable platform for the UK’s design community,” said Ben Evans, Director of LDF. “Over the past two decades, the Festival has cemented London’s reputation as a global creative capital while supporting designers at every level of their careers. This year’s programme promises fresh perspectives and boundary-pushing ideas that will inspire audiences. But just as importantly, the Festival provides opportunities for emerging talent and promotes inclusivity in the sector. We are incredibly proud of the vital role the Festival plays in helping designers and creative businesses to reach new audiences and championing design’s significance in shaping our world.”

So, let’s take a look at what’s to come…

The Districts

From North to South, East to West, the Design Districts are a key component of the LDF makeup. Each District has its own unique personality that reflects the local community and enables visitors to explore events a short walking distance from each other.

There will be 13 Design Districts in total as part of this year’s LDF, and they are Bankside Design District, Brompton Design District, Greenwich Peninsula, Islington Design District, Kings Cross Design District, Mayfair Design District, Park Royal Design District, Shoreditch Design Triangle and Southwark Design District. These will be joined by four new districts for 2023: Dalston to Stokey Design District, Battersea Design District, Chelsea Design District and Fitzrovia Design District.

a contemporary minimalist lounge area with wooden furniture and walls

Image credit: Material Matters

Design Destinations.

As part of the programme, London Design Festival hosts major trade and consumer shows, formerly known as Design Destinations. These are the commercial pillars of the Festival and are key meeting places for designers, manufacturers, buyers, specifiers, the media and design enthusiasts to discover new product releases and identify current trends.

London Design Fair

London Design Fair makes its much-anticipated return to the international design calendar on September 21 – 24. The largest commercial exhibition during London Design Festival, the Fair is the leading showcase of cutting-edge design, brands, international pavilions, and makers. The fair returns to  Truman Brewery in Shoreditch and visitors will enjoy talks and interactive workshops, as well as discover exciting new designs, installations and trends.

Visitors will also enjoy world class talks and interactive workshops, discover exciting new designs and emerging trends, and experience impressive installations. International pavilions from countries including Sweden, South Korea and Ukraine showcase design talent from around the world.

Among many, features include ‘The Power of Colour’, an immersive entrance designed by 2LG Studio in partnership with Lick, and ‘Homes with a Heart’, curated by stylist, writer, and consultant Roddy Clarke in collaboration with the UK’s leading sustainable business community Blue Patch, putting sustainability front and centre. A comprehensive speaker programme features Interior Design Masters Finalist Frank Newbold’s interactive session ‘Design Dilemmas’, whilst Architonic’s theatre takeover will be hosting sessions with the likes of Pearson Lloyd, Universal Design Studio and
Form Us With Love. All and more at the largest commercial exhibition during London Design Festival.

Jane Cairns artefacts

Image credit: Jane Cairns (London Design Fair)

Material Matters

After its debut launch event last year became ‘the’ fair of LDF, Material Matters will return to Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, as part of the Bankside Design District. The fair, which runs September 20 – 23, will bring together world-brands, designers, makers, and innovators to investigate and celebrate the importance of materials and their ability to shape our lives. The refreshed line-up includes Headline Sponsor, UK lighting specialist Bert Frank and the Milan-based platform Isola and much more.

Graphic identity 2023 by Pentagram

Since 2007, world-renowned creative agency Pentagram, have produced an annual graphic identity for each iteration of the Festival – responding to, and anticipating trends in design and typography.

Certain elements of the identity remain constant – the Festival’s colour palette of white on red has been proved to be one of the Festival’s most recognisable elements. This has allowed Pentagram to adapt the brief each year to produce distinctive visual identities ensuring that each year the Festival remains dynamic and interesting.

Domenic Lippa, Partner at Pentagram, has led the creative direction of the branding and visual design for the Festival since its inception.

LDF at the V&A

As is tradition, visitors to LDF will be able to explore iconic spaces within the V&A Museum, transformed by an extraordinary collection of specially commissioned installations by international contemporary designers during London Design Festival. Artists this year include Andu Masebo, Gifu Prefecture, Dima Srouji, Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu, Poulomi Basu and CJ Clarke.

Part Exchange artwork by Andu Masebo

Image credit: Andu Masebo

Hotel Designs talks

As part of Hotel Designs’ commitment to not only LDF but also giving oxygen to creating new and fresh conversations from within and outside the hotel design arena, Editor Hamish Kilburn will be moderating two panel discussions.

On September 18, Kilburn will moderate a panel at Ember Locke Kensington. Joining him for a discussion about creating depth in hotel design narrative will be Alex Bauman-Lyons (Head of Design at edyn), Andreas Chirstodoulou (Creative Director at House of Dre) and Pauline Dellemotte (Founder and Creative Design Director at Aterlier Ochre).

On September 19, inside Hart Shoreditch, Kilburn will moderate the panel that will explore the journey of interior design in hospitality and how it can be used as a positive force for good. He will be joined by Jessica Morrison (Associate at G.A. Design), Lina Zakzeckyte (General Manager, Hart Shoreditch), Rachael Hymas (LDF spokesperson), Will Martin (Ceramic Artist) and James Daw (East London Artist/ Illustrator).

Landmark projects

2023 marks the 300th anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren’s death. London Design Festival supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies takes the opportunity to delve into the legacy of the extraordinary architect and polymath through a modern lens. By collaborating with contemporary designers, the Festival aims to provide fresh insights into Wren and his collection of architectural masterpieces.

The two Landmark Projects which will form part of the Wren 300 celebrations will serve as a means of engaging with his architectural and scientific heritage, as well as exploring how his works remain relevant and inspiring in the present day. Through innovative responses and creative interventions, the Festival seeks to infuse these spaces with contemporary perspectives, celebrating Wren’s enduring influence and showcasing
his significance in the 21st century.

At St Paul’s Cathedral, LDF in association with Artichoke will present Aura by Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena. The installation approaches what av temple means in today’s world and examines the potential of time, sound and light to create contemporary rituals.

Spectrum Aura lighting installation at LDF

Image credit: Pablo Valbuena

Aura is a live installation that transforms the sounds present in the cathedral into a pulsating line of light projected at an architectural scale. The piece is deeply intertwined with the context and fabric of Wren’s masterpiece. It introduces new ideas while seamlessly integrating into the building and its daily life as if it had been part of the original design. Aura listens to the sound, voices and music generated in St Paul’s and materialises them into a spectral, three-dimensional aura that enhances the ritual aspects of this space.

Meanwhile, Studio Waldemeyer will present Halo a transcendent light installation within St. Stephen Walbrook Church. The conical pendulum traces a celestial path around Henry Moore’s famed altar, evoking planetary motions and creating an ethereal Halo.

Mortiz Waldemeyer Halo lighting installation - at LDF 23

Image credit: Studio Waldemeyer

Slow colour transitions on the grand dome, inspired by natural phenomena like the aurora borealis, amplify the meditative aura. ‘Halo’ transcends religious affiliations, inviting viewers from all walks of life to immerse themselves in a unified appreciation of history, art, and spirituality. It is a captivating journey into the past and an evocative exploration of the celestial, encouraging the modern viewer to find spiritual resonance within the timeless and the ethereal.

Main image credit: Material Matters