LDF at Somerset House
Image courtesy of the London Design Festival

LDF – Celebrate Art, Design & Creativity at the London Design Festival

LDF - London's Pop-up Festival For the Creative Industries

LDF, the London Design Festival, is back in September.  And we can't wait!

If you haven’t been to the Festival before, this guide will help you understand what LDF is and why we firmly believe you should make time to see it.

Get ready for the landmark projects, catch art destinations that are only around for a few weeks, and discover London's Design Districts.

What Is the London Design Festival and
Why Should You Make Time For It?

LDF celebrates creativity

London prides itself as the creative capital of the world. To celebrate design and London’s role in this area, London Design Festival or LDF is an annual event held in London to celebrate design and showcase London’s creativity.

LDF is the brain child of Sir John Sorrell, the distinguished designer and entrepreneur and Ben Evans, Director of LDF. The first LDF was held in 2003.  By 2007 it had found a home at the V&A, the world’s leading design and arts museum (and our favourite!)

LDF brings people and teams together

London Design Festival brings together a varied mix of local and international stakeholders.  Regardless of their background - from academics and artists to designers and retailers - they all live and breathe design. LDF has gone from strength to strength, each event getting bigger and spreading over more of London.

Today, LDF has become the best annual design festival in the world.

LDF brings together many different streams of work to create installations that celebrate and challenge the way we look at design.  It's the involvement of such different perspectives that creates pieces that are unlikely to appear at any other art destination in the world. Science, technology, design, innovation, engineering and commerce - all influence what is presented to the world for a week every September.

LDF is also a way for designers to work differently around a particular theme, breaking boundaries in their usual thinking because of the influence of others they may not usually be exposed to.

A Tour of Past LDF Discoveries

To get a sense of what LDF is about, take a look at our 7 highlights from LDF15, get up-close and personal to our favourite Landmark Project, Bullet from a Shooting Star, and read how we discovered Bankside, one of the youngest of the LDF Design Districts.

Discovering That Design is Everywhere in London

It's hard to imagine the breadth of this festival unless you spend at least a couple of days exploring it in person. With over 400 events and installations, even reading about it doesn't convey the sheer scale.

If it feels like design is everywhere, it's because for at least a week it really is – from films put together by design firms working on commuter spaceships, to stark Japanese crockery, jewellery and furniture.

Because of the diversity on offer, LDF is a great festival for the young and the young at heart.  It engages us, allowing us to celebrate design that people may assume to be the realm of "experts".

One thing you won’t find is apparel and fashion, since that has firmly been left to London Fashion Week.

The Design Districts

Originally the V&A was the place to see some of the key design installations, known as Landmark Projects.

But as LDF has become more and more successful, London has been divided into Design Districts where you can see many small pop up installations, typically around just for the days of the festival.

In 2016, Brixton was added as a Design District to the existing seven of Bankside, Brompton, Chelsea, Clerkenwell, Islington, Queens Park and Shoreditch.

The Landmark Projects

Every year, the organisers work with sponsors and designers to create a set of “landmark” projects that are intended to showcase an interesting aspect of design to inhabit some of London’s public spaces.

3 of our past favourites are Curiosity Cloud (2015), The Endless Stair (2013) and Timber Wave (2011).

In 2016 we're particularly intrigued by The Smile, Baboushka Boxes and Liquid Marble.

The Smile

The Smile is the first ever mega rectangular tube of timber, a dwelling structure and one to give us a different view of the city. The perforations in the tube will provide light to the interiors during the day and light up the tube like a lantern at night.

London Design Festival has collaborated with Alison Brooks Architects, Arup, Merk and American Hardwood Export Council for this installation.

Baboushka Boxes

Designed by dRMM collaborating with Shelter and Legal and General, this installation is to be set up in Victoria Gardens. Baboushka Boxes explores aspects of housing design.

“Stacked like an inhabited sculpture, these living boxes can be re-arranged to suit individual or communal needs. The interiors are furnished, coloured or projected onto. Spaces between boxes form external rooms and routes. The main idea of the installation is to use our most modern material, engineered timber, to speculate on the nature and needs of current society and future living.”

Liquid Marble

V&A have invited reputed French Designer, Mathieu Lehanneur, to create the installation “Liquid Marble”. Mathieu is a designer who combines science, technology and art to design humanistic projects.

“Designed using 3D software, an expanse of black marble is digitally sculpted and then polished by hand to achieve a highly reflective surface. The piece is intended to evoke waves with a liquid appearance that resemble fossils in solid marble.”

How Do You Make the Most of LDF?

Other than the landmark projects, each design district will come alive with a variety of popup installations for the period of the Festival. This will vary from furniture in some of the districts like Chelsea to jewellery in Clerkenwell and many things in between. So the first big decision, is how much you would like to take in – cover many or cover a few in depth. That choice is yours.

Create Your Personal LDF Trail

In the weeks before everything officially kicks off, the LDF website provides a directory of projects in each district. You can use this in printed form, online or as a smartphone app.  Our experience - based on being over-ambitious and under-prepared at our first LDF - is that it's well worth creating personal trails that suit your interests, time and of physical energy.  Don't forget to allow enough travel time between destinations, as London traffic and commuting continues around you unabated. 

Remember, it’s a pop up, everything but the major landmark installations disappear the day after the festival as the City returns to whatever "normal" means in London.

How will you experience LDF this year?