Trends you need to know from London Design Week

Image borrowed from London Design Week

A couple of weeks ago some of the Common Good team headed to London design week. Lots of food for thought, amazing exhibitions and even a mini rave were involved. Here are our highlights…

Fiona — Design Researcher

My highlight of LDF besides exploring beautiful London, was attending Made.com: designing for small, urban spaces. A panel discussion on the increase of people living in urban spaces and the shrinking space we have in cities. They discussed the challenges when building spaces and asked how we might use space in the home, and how sharing may be applied to limited spaces.

The panel included Ruth Wassermann from Made.com, Suzanne Imre from Living Etc, Jo McCafferty from Levitt Bernstein and Jesper Henriksson from Hesselbrand.

It was interesting to hear how the home has changed over the years, how sharing is now seen as a luxury and experiencing other people’s lives is a treat. Examples of AirBnB renting homes many might not be able to afford otherwise. More and more people are using their beds in their homes not just to sleep but to relax, work and even socialise.

“The bed is now the most used piece of furniture, overtaking the sofa” Ruth Wassermann.

The discussion of space in the home was about how we need to be smart with making the most out of furniture. We do this by using visual tricks to give the illusion of space. For example, the panel spoke about the wasted space above a door, why don’t we put a shelf with a few books there. Simple colour and light can instantly make a home seem bigger and brighter, emphasising or pushing back space.

Design Engineering exhibition at the V&A highlighting the making & design process

Jo McCafferty talked about an example of a shared garden for children to play with each other, gaining more social interaction. Shared space brings an environment where people can introduce themselves into the community.

Jesper Henriksson pointed out that not everyone will get along in shared communities but it gives a social excuse for people to come in contact with each other. A physical element of actually going up to someone, allows people to feel comfortable to start speaking to others. He brushed upon how in big cities so many people are lonely. This is where I found the discussion most intriguing as Ruth Wassermann went on to talk about head space within a city and how the bigger the area, the lack of community. How can we address this with design?

A really thought provoking discussion about urban spaces and how cities are using the most out of the space while still trying to keep that sense of community.

Lucy — Research Lead

‘Albion From Plans To The Plate: Creating A Space People Want To Dine In’ gave us some insight into what opening a restaurant, from initial planning through to getting customers through the door. The panel included Isabelle Chatel de Brancion of Spin Architecture, Albion Co-founder Peter Prescott, James Woodhouse of Conran Contracts, Sean Sutcliffe Co-founder and MD of Benchmark and Ercol Chairman Edward Tadros.

It was interesting for me to hear the design process being applied to restaurant design. The process was similar to how we approach problems with research into other restaurants, including experiencing menus, atmospheres, lighting, furniture, music and all sorts. (Awesome!) Idea on is next with scrapbooks and mood boards used as key tools.

Our design process

Then making happens, alongside iterations - things change and there are constant tweaks. Elements are tested and some restaurants have soft launches and iterate again. The design process is followed vigorously.

“You have to win your diner way before they eat anything. It’s about what you’re eating visually”

There is so much to think about in the opening of a restaurant, I didn’t think about everything involved in a restaurant’s design until now. The food is obviously important but someone on the panel said “You have to win your diner way before they eat anything. It’s about what you’re eating visually.” Its about the whole experience.

There was also a lot of discussion about space. Architects have to think about front of house and back of house and there are often fights about how much space back of house get allocated.

“The space is super important. People want authenticity”

Eating out is a competitive market, in London there are new restaurants opening up all of the time and there is a recent trend towards smaller independents opening (by small sometimes seating 30 if that). Street food is also on the rise and was talked about as the latest phenomena with people loving the street environment. So restaurants have a hard job on their hands, getting customers to come in the first place but then getting them to keep on coming or spreading the word on social media about the restaurants. The days of traditional restaurant critics are almost over with customers with thousands of followers being more important to the success of a restaurant.

A great sneaky peek into the world of restaurant design; you can find out about Albion here.

I was also inspired by the social innovation talk when Daniel Charny from Now On spoke about seeing a real decline in people’s abilities to make and create something. He talked about the role of design and the importance of physically making something (and not just talking about it!)

“We need to teach children how to program the computer, not the other way round.” Seymour Papert

He discussed the role of ‘making’ in our future lives, whether it’s in education, in society or culture. He’s started a project called Fixperts which is about using creative problem — solving to fix something for someone and share the story. There are now 250 small films from 18 countries around the world but it’s for anyone who wants to use their creative problem-solving and their design skills. He has the ambition to get this programme into schools as a formal exam in technology, society and storytelling. He thinks as a design community we need to consider ways we can get back to the Making Society. Powerful stuff.

Lisa — Lead UX Designer

The Design Society panel discussion at the spectacular V&A museum gave us great insight into how design can be used as a catalyst for social innovation which is something we all feel strongly about here at Common Good. The panel included Daniel Charny From Now On, Maria Nicanor from the V&A, David Li from Maker Collider, and Kevin Lau from Non-sense Technology Co.

I particularly enjoyed the discussion around the term ‘makers’. It was super interesting to hear perspectives from both the UK and China which have different cultures. In China they don’t have a word for maker, so their challenge seems even greater.

“Makerspace purpose is to generate social impact, offering access, knowledge exchange and life skills locally.”

Daniel Charney talked about his social project Fixperts and discussed the positive impact of maker spaces. The project encourages people to use the power of fixing to solve everyday problems which is awesome and definitely worth checking out. “We want everyone in the world to feel that they can fix stuff and solve problems. We believe that the design process applied to small fixing challenges has the potential to give people the insight and confidence to find solutions for themselves and others.” He talked passionately about aiming to get making into schools which is something we also feel strongly about.

“We want everyone in the world to feel that they can fix stuff and solve problems. We believe that the design process applied to small fixing challenges has the potential to give people the insight and confidence to find solutions for themselves and others.”

Designing and making being at the heart of these programmes. It’s not about names or titles but its about the processes and programmes that sit behind these. Overall a thought provoking and inspiring event.

After a motivating couple of days at the London Design Festival we were ready to return back to Manchester to download our insights to the rest of the team. Reflecting on our time we could see how our design process could impact these areas of urban spaces, social innovation through making and many more.

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