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Tara Slade, Senior 3D Designer

Following another massive London Design Festival, we’ve finally had a chance to catch our breath and reflect on what we saw. Amongst the sea of weird and wonderful projects celebrating design that were hosted across London, the experiences that really stood out for us were those that artfully harnessed the power of surprise! Blisters healed and brains recovered, we explore a few of our favourite highlights from the festival – employing ‘the way they made us feel’ as an alternative way to measure the success of them.

V&A ‘High Tide for Carmen’

This exhibition captured the incredible set designs of Es Devlin in collaboration with video artist Luke Halls. The time between walking into the space and understanding the scale of what we were looking at instantly created a sense of wonder. As we walked through the exhibit, the introduction of projection mapping served to animate seemingly static oversized objects, bringing them to life. This project never stood out as a must see on the Design Week program, but the clever use of scale and animation resulted in an absorbing experience that we recall with a huge smile.

V&A ‘Reflection Room’ By Flynn Talbot

As one of the most publicised installations of the festival, this clearly wasn’t one to be missed. Thankfully the experience not only lived up to expectation, but delivered beyond it. The intermittent reflective surfaces which lined each side of the space meant that the view of the room and others around you constantly changed, creating a sensation of continual movement. The shifting light sequences – from blue to red – progressing from one end of the room to the other- created a different visual experience at every point throughout the journey. The individual interactions we had with the installation made for a truly immersive human experience.

Darcroom Installations By Various Collaborators

This was a cleverly curated trade event for lighting suppliers to show their wares. Dotted throughout the journey between stands were collaborations with various artists and designers. The success of these works relied on the pieces being experienced together. Each installation was a variation on the same dome shape, the element of surprise was concealed in the varying way each designer or artist manipulated the object. While each installation ultimately aimed to showcase the product of the collaborating lighting company, interactive levels were kept high through the ability to engage with each creation in a slightly different way, either by climbing into, sitting under, or walking around. The element of discovery was important- one piece in isolation would not have had the same effect; there really did seem to be a new ‘surprise’ waiting to be uncovered, around every corner.

‘Villa Walala’ by Camille Walala

This was the much-anticipated showpiece commission of the London Design Festival this year, advertised as the ‘Festival Hub’. Although the striking patterns and colours without a doubt created high visual impact, we felt that the initial wow factor that we encountered online prior to visiting, did not translate to an equally powerful experience in the flesh. This installation seemed to have come down with a serious case of over-hype, coupled with a bout of social over-exposure. Result? Unfortunately, the human experience was left a little in the shadow for us.

As designers and retail consultants that strive to create the best in human experience, our LDF adventures served as a great reminder of the power of stimulating human emotion, through the senses. Nothing can replace the feeling of genuine excitement, exhilaration or surprise, and brands and retailers that recognise and are investing in human relationship with their customers right now are the ones that stand to thrive in the future. We look forward to next years’ extravaganza!