Designing a fair for the future

By Sujata Burman

“How do we not just survive, but use design to thrive?” asks Annie Lindsell, event director of London Design Fair. She’s referring to the fair’s theme for 2023: ‘Thrive’. After a three-year hiatus, the showcase returns to the Truman Brewery this September with a fresh outlook, addressing ways in which design can create solutions for the global challenges we all face.

“Everyone said that they loved the mix of discovering new talent and exploring established brands, as well experiencing international pavilions,” says Lindsell on the variety that London Design Fair has to offer, and the research the team undertook in planning this edition. This journey of discovery was something the team were keen to recreate for 2023 – from emerging design studios to industry stalwarts, via mixed thematic installations – while also layering in new elements relevant to the times in which we’re living.

Thinking about how a design fair functions in our current climate is key to the show‘s comeback. A new area, titled ‘Sustainable Material Showcase’, is a fine example. Here, exhibitors can submit raw materials with “an explanation about where this material is sourced, why it's sustainable, why the brand is using it, how they decided to use it”, says Lindsell. Doubling as a learning space, the installation will also be built sustainably, using materials including recycled coffee grounds. Innovations in conscious design will also be the focus of ‘Homes with a Heart’, an area that features sustainably-styled homes by writer and consultant Roddy Clarke, in collaboration with the sustainable business community Blue Patch.

London Design Fair aims to see the next generation of design impresarios ‘thriving’, as well –  countering the pandemic’s years of cancelled graduation shows with its first Design Alumni Pavilion. “A stepping stone for new graduates to have a platform,” is how Lindsell describes the show, which features work from a host of recent grads, including Ian Burnell, lamunlamai. Craftstudio, MESEME Studio, Jenna Gillinger, Coleccion Estudio, Samia Hilal and Emily Hatton Surface Design. 

A networking hub as well as a trade show, the fair will continue conversations through its LDNdesign Talks platform, looking at topics like designing homes for neurodiversity, and exploring colour psychology and behaviour. Meanwhile, the installation ‘You CAN Sit With Us’ by 2LG Studio is intended to make visitors feel as if they have a seat at the table. Included in the concept space will be contributions from a selection of designers, like Amechi Mandi and Divine Southgate Smith to add their voice and empower inclusivity. While based in London, the show will have a strong range of international exhibitors including six international pavilions, Sweden, China, Romania, South Korea, UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

Unlike many fairs that separate their contents by theme, London Design Fair wanted to place small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) next to international pavilions, and groups shows next to more established brands – merging the diverse range of design and adding to the visitor experience. “We found it would be more interesting when weaving your way around the beautiful historic spaces of Truman Brewery,” says Lindell. A way, she explains, “to constantly encourage discovery”.

London Design Fair will take place 21-24 September 2023 at the Truman Brewery.