Each year, when the London Design Festival rolls into town it grows bigger, more inspiring, and a little more unwieldy than the year before. This year's event took place over the course of 9 days in hundreds of beautiful—and some hidden—locations across the city. The diverse program of over 400 exhibitions and events covers not just furniture, but everything under design's vast umbrella from fashion to architecture, art and technology.
With so many inspiring sights to see, we set out armed with a well-thumbed festival guide and wearing our most comfortable pair of shoes to connect the dots to bring you the emerging trends and key themes from this year's showcase.
A plethora of digital brands explored the intersection of technology and design.
British designer Benjamin Hubert relaunched his studio under the name of 'Layer' and outlined plans to take a more holistic approach to design through the production of human-focused software and technology-based products...
2. Mass customization:
Customization is king for the industry's new online furniture brands.
Jason Goldberg's customizable, flat-pack furniture brand Hem popped up in Covent Garden (↑) with a slick retail outfit where customers were able to try out Hem's products in person while playing with the customization tools and features on the brand's website via a set of touch screen devices...
New customizable-furniture brand Tylko showed off its newly-launched Yves Behar table and augmented reality-enabled app...
…while high-end modular furniture brand Beynon launched its 'infinitely configurable' system at Design Junction (pictured at top).
3. Built for Instagram
Photogenic installations bridged the physical and digital realms.
London creative studio Patternity's limited-edition collection of digital stationery for Paperless Post was brought to life in the form of an interactive installation at Somerset House. Mimicking the stationery's bold black and white graphics, Patternity packed a room full of playful, pattern-covered foam shapes that visitors could roam amongst and, of course, take the perfect London Design Festival selfie.
And who could resist snapping Matteo Fogale and Laetitia de Allegri's Mise en Abyme installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with its Instagram-happy layers of pastel-hued acrylic? (↑)
4. Ceramics took center stage
Innovative new ceramic collections were at every turn this year.
...and Reiko Kaneko, who showcased the results of her recent experiments with reactive glazes on fine bone china. (↓)
But by far the most ambitious ceramic adventure came from Barnaby Barford, whose Tower of Babel—a six-meter-high (nearly 20 feet) tower of 3,000 London shops made out of bone china installed at the V&A—was a festival highlight (↑)
5. Material of the moment: Jesmonite
Lightweight, fiberglass alternative Jesmonite found its way into three standout pieces.
Renowned for her Jesmonite vessels and coasters, Swedish sculptor Hilda Hellström upped her game with a impressive mountain-shaped sculpture installed at the Hoi Polloi restaurant at the Ace hotel in Shoreditch (↑).
Meanwhile London-based product designer Ariane Prin mixed plaster, Jesmonite, and metal dust to create a line of gorgeous rust-colored homeware pieces (↑)...
...and deviating from his usual refined wood pieces, Russell Pinch's show-stopping Nim table is made from hand-painted Jesmonite with a textured surface that transitions from rough to smooth (↑).
6. Recycled materials
Proving that recycled products don't have to look like they're made from trash.
Curated by new research studio Matter, East London shop One Good Deed Today hosted an exhibition of material-driven design projects that included a pair of Adidas sneakers (↑) made using waste harvested from the ocean.
Continuing the theme over at 19 Greek Street, Aussie designers Sarah King and Liane Rossler of Supercyclers exhibited a set of Bento boxes made from marine debris collected in Australia (↑).
7. Light shows
Impressive interactive illuminations steal the show.
Hung in the center of a room at the V&A, Mischer'Traxler's Curiosity Cloud was composed of 250 mouth-blown Lobmeyer glass globes (↑), each containing a hand-fabricated insect. As visitors moved through the room, the globs lit up and the insects sprang into life to beautiful, but slightly eerie, effect.
Meanwhile, in a darkened room over at Somerset House, Hem installed a grand piano linked up to a row of 44 of its new Luca Nichetto-designed Alphabeta pendant lamps that each turned on and off at the touch of a key.
8. Plant preoccupation
The design industry's obsession with all things floral was channeled into a number of flower-focused collaborations.
Over at Lee Broom's East London showroom, the in-house team turned their hand (with great success) to floristry, creating a series of impressive floral displays (↑) to mark the launch of Broom's new vase collection.
Australian florist Simone Gooch of Fjura decorated designer Laetitia de Allegri's new ceramic pieces with striking florals (↑) in London's Brompton Design District...
And Turkish designer Bilge Nur Saltik turned the archetypal vase on its head quite literally with her line of hand-cut glass bell jars that turn single blooms into bouquets through their multifaceted surfaces.