Brands and designers were on hand to showcase cutting-edge design thinking.

From September 16th to 24th, London Design Festival takes over the city to display the work of thousands of international designers and artists. Featured exhibitions tackled heavy topics such as city life and sustainability, showcasing London as an innovative, future-thinking city with design at its core.

London Design Festival provides many opportunities for major retailers and brands across industries to get involved. One of the most talked-about landmark projects, Urban Cabin, investigates the future of urban habitats with its micro-house. Created by MINI LIVING, an offshoot of the car brand’s design practice, the installation explores a world where homes become a shared resource in a hyper-urbanized landscape. The compact space also includes a micro-library where people can exchange books, following the inevitable closures of public libraries in the future due to costs.

Urban Cabin by MINI LIVING, London Design Festival. Photography by Andy Stagg

Urban Cabin by MINI LIVING, London Design Festival. Photography by Andy Stagg
MINI LIVING Urban Cabin. Images by Andy Stagg
Urban Cabin by MINI LIVING, London Design Festival. Photography by Andy Stagg

The “Design Frontiers” exhibition at Somerset House explores the relationship between designers and clients, and features diverse brands from Jaguar to Swarovski. Selfridges have also made the most of the festival, inviting consumers to visit its flagship store for design-centric pop-up events. Anthropologie and Harrods have also created experiences specifically for the festival, with Harrods inviting shoppers to tour the design influences throughout the store.

Outside of brand exhibits, designers took over iconic spaces to raise awareness of issues like sustainability. By the OXO tower, ‘380:1’ by Friche studio interrogates the future of ecology and aims to raise awareness about air pollution and deforestation. The display features 380 tree saplings, representing the number of trees required to absorb the annual carbon dioxide consumption of one person.

Drop in the Ocean by Neill Brodie at the London Design Festival. Photography by Angela Moore
Drop in the Ocean by Neill Brodie at the London Design Festival. Photography by Angela Moore
Drop in the Ocean by Brodie Neill. Images by Angela Moore
Drop in the Ocean by Neill Brodie at the London Design Festival. Photography by Angela Moore

In a similar vein, “Drop in the Ocean” by designer Brodie Neill confronts marine pollution by using recycled ocean plastics to create furniture. A waterfall in the lobby of the ME London hotel accompanied the installation. Start-up Pentatonic are also exploring the potential of waste materials at this year’s festival, launching their new line of homeware made from recycled cans, cigarette butts, and other waste products. 

Pentatonic exhibit at the London Design Festival. Image by Ed Reeve
Pentatonic exhibit. Image by Ed Reeve

Tackling a different issue, Camille Walala’s inflatable Villa Walala encourages adults to play, and offers a cathartic break to city workers needing to unwind and escape office life. The structure dazzles with its bold colors, sense of nostalgia and “Tribal Pop” style. The theme of play is also explored in Shoreditch-based hotel citizenM’s “Estate Playground.” Created in partnership with designer Yinka Ilori, the space turns the hotel entrance into a public playground.

Villa Walala by Camille Walala at the London Design Festival. Photography by Andy Stagg
Villa Walala. Image by Andy Stagg

Reflection Room” by Flynn Talbot, held in the V&A’s Prince Consort Gallery, also offers an immersive experience, using light to engage its viewers. “I conceived the idea standing in the gallery, and wanted to add my story on top of the beautiful existing architecture, but not to take it over,” Talbot stated. “With all of my work I want to create new experiences using light that build a connection between people and place.”

Reflection Room by Flynn Talbot at the London Design Festival. Credit to Edmund Sumner
Refection Rooms. Copyright Edmund Sumner

Proving that there is space for immersive experiences in the wellness industry, design studio Bompas & Parr and Mondrian London have created “The Spa of Unconscious Desires.” The late-night spa event explores healing rituals in new ways, pushing the “boundaries between comfort, fear and disgust.”

Spa of Unconscious Desires, Bompas & Parr, at London Design Festival
An exhibition from the Spa of Unconscious Desires.

When it comes to London Design Festival, the key objective for brands should be to consider the influence of design on their industry and to engage consumers with forward-thinking concepts and innovations. As this year’s festival showed, immersion and the environment are very much on top of the public’s mind.