A trip to the 2021 London Design Festival - The Open College of the Arts
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A trip to the 2021 London Design Festival

In late September 2021 a small group of OCA Interior Design students met to visit the London Design Festival together. London Design Festival is an annual event that celebrates, and promotes, London as the design capital of the world. An ambitious task, and certainly some of the projects and installations on display were very impressive, but is London the design capital of the world? We spoke with two of the students who went, to see what they thought of the festival.

What did you know about the London Design Festival before you went?

Samantha: I’ve been to LDF for a few years and always loved it – I’ve known it as a big collection of exhibitions, installations, talks and showrooms covering all areas of design across all of london.

Tracy: Only that each year it celebrates design by holding exhibitions over different districts in London, 2021 was it’s 19th year, next year I’m sure will be extra special as it celebrates 20 years!

How did you choose which bits to go and see?

Samantha: I usually scan the whole list of what’s on and pick out the bits I like the most – then usually visit 2 or 3 areas across London during the week. I like to get a mix of showrooms and also some of the installations around the city.

Tracy: I had been in communication with two other students for a month or so beforehand, one of them lives in West London and another in Surrey, they are both more familiar with London itself and so with a fairly tight timeframe to spend in London they suggested certain areas to visit. I knew that I wasn’t able to visit all of the districts but so happy to be seeing a small part of it and spending the day with other like minded students.

What was your favourite part of the day?

Samantha:  I really loved going into the showrooms this year, as obviously this time I was a lot more invested to learn about materials etc.. We visited Poltrona Frau, which I really enjoyed as I got to quiz them on the fabrics. In the past I usually visited the more arty exhibitions, but this year I made a bit more of a focus on visiting interior based shows, in particular anything in relation to Materials as I’m currently on part 2.

Tracy: The whole day was just so overwhelming but my favourite was a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, beautiful designs and exhibits inside the most amazing building. We walked and talked, whilst learning so much about each other and design likes and dislikes, a perfect way to soak up great design and spark your creativity!

Have you thought differently about design since your visit?

Samantha: Yes! We visited a small exhibition based around the idea of ‘Joy’ which I really loved – the materials they used and the ‘out of the box’ thinking behind some of the pieces really made me think about being a bit more playful with my work, sketches and model making.

Tracy: To be able to see the designs, to see the world through the designers eyes and feel what they might feel is the most amazing part of studying design, but to actually be able to visit in person makes it so much more real, it gives me more confidence in sharing my opinion on design and can start good discussions. We certainly had some good discussions whilst walking around the city.

Did any one object particularly inspire you?

Samantha: I loved the colorful coral inspired pieces at the ‘Joy’ exhibition – I liked that you couldn’t really tell what they were, or even what they were made out of!

Tracy: My particular favourite was the Middle East Art in the V&A, the vibrant colours, detail and textures were breathtaking. I also really enjoyed walking around Liberty, what a store!

Would you like to go again next year?

Samantha: 100%!

Tracy: Absolutely! I would be on another train tomorrow if I was able to!

What would you recommend to other OCA Interior Design students who have not been before?

Samantha: I think it can be very overwhelming with picking what to see and where to go, even as a Londoner I find it a bit much. So I think it’s best just picking a couple of exhibits you’d love and then just have a walk around in that area – there’s always plenty to see!

Tracy: I would suggest doing some research before your visit, make an itinerary so that you can at least visit the places you may be more interested in. Or if you’re lucky like I was, hook up with some savvy students who know the best places to visit and some great eateries too!!


If you’d like to find out more about London Design Festival, and plan your visit for next year, take a look at their website here: https://www.londondesignfestival.com

Image credit: London Design Festival. South Kensington 2021. Tracy Walker.
Image credit: London Design Festival. V&A 2021. Tracy Walker.
Image credit: London Design Festival. Poltrona Frau 2021. Samantha deBarry.
Image credit: London Design Festival. Fortnum & Mason 2021. Samantha deBarry.
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Posted by author: Catherine Byrne
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2 thoughts on “A trip to the 2021 London Design Festival

  • This was my first design festival and it didn’t disappoint, it was such a great way to spend time with other students! I am feeling very fortunate to have had the chance to visit, especially after the past 18 months, let’s hope its the first of many. I believe there are many cities that can carry the title of ‘design capital of the world’.

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