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Nia Price, Junior 3D Designer

The 2015 London Design Festival celebrates and promotes London as the design capital of the world. Over 350 events and installations were on offer across the city, proving the design community’s role as a leading force in the city’s creative economy.

This year, a focus on multi-sensory experiences and participant interaction was notably prevalent. There were also excellent examples of the canny use of digital without the use of screens. Refreshing? We thought so. What we saw in many ways reflected the principles of good retail design, enabling interaction and immersion, striving for emotional involvement, which in turn creates a customer experience engendering favourable feelings towards the brand involved.

Our team reviewed the following LDF Displays:

  • ‘Heartbeat’ balloon installation, Covent Garden
  • Three installations at Somerset House
  • Three RIBA Regent Street Windows
  • Tate Britain Sensorium > Touch, Smell and Eat your art
  • Moments of Reflection by Dominic Harris

‘Heartbeat’ balloon installation, Covent Garden

100,000 white balloons made up the temporary installation ‘Heartbeat’ at Covent Garden. The balloon ‘cloud’ which stretched 54m in length floated above the market.

Charles Pétillon, the French artist who created this glorious phenomenon, said: “The balloon invasions I create are metaphors. Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them. With Heartbeat, I wanted to represent the Market Building as the beating heart of this area – connecting its past with the present day, to allow visitors to re-examine its role at the heart of London’s life.’

A takeaway for retail design … be dynamic and rethink visual merchandising, perhaps digitally enhancing it, to create theatre. Encourage customers to look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way and to re-evaluate their feelings towards products, places, brands.

London Design Festival 'Heartbeats' installation

Somerset House

Somerset House is a new location for the London Design Festival. This year, ten rooms in the West wing were taken over by various contemporary international designers. Below are our three favourites that all have experience and interactivity at their heart.

1. Lica Nichetto – Alphabeta Lamps

Lica Nichetto presented his modular Alphabeta Lamps. In the same way that you combine letters of the alphabet to make words, or different notes to compose a piece of music, his versatile alphabeta lamps allow you to design your lamp from a choice of different configurations.

An immersive and interactive experience, this installation reflects the playful functionality of the product. It also mirrors a current trend, customisation. People want to participate in the creation of something outside of the ordinary, something that personally reflects themselves, either in colour, shape, or design.

London Design Festival - Alphabeta Lamps

2. PATTERNITY with Paperless Post Connected by Pattern

The ‘Connected by Pattern’ project started when Patternity created a limited-edition collection of stationery covered with black and white shapes for digital invitations company Paperless Post.

Paperless Post is a service that connects people in the digital world with real-life experiences e.g., parties. With this installation, 3D patterns were used to explore connectivity, creating a place where people came and played with the shapes, rearranged the space and expressed themselves.

It was a giant patterned playground, celebrating human interaction; you could not help but enjoy it.

London Design Festival - Patternity Installation

3. Alex Rasmussen with Neal Feay – The Wave

Santa Barbara designer Alex Rasmussen surrounded visitors with a giant wave: 700+ anodised aluminium panels, invisibly fastened to form a structural swell, reflecting crystalline shades of Pacific blue. It was physically stunning, encouraged participation and effective in resulting in a very pleasing ‘mental aftertaste’ of enjoyment.

London Design Festival - The Wave installation

RIBA Regent Street Window Project 2015

Now in its sixth year, this project unites 13 flagship retailers with a like-minded RIBA practice to create 13 engaging window displays along one of London’s busiest shopping destinations, Regent Street. The outcome is a wonderfully energetic public exhibition. We’ve picked our favourite three to share with you.

1. Spacegroup Architects for Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s used moss and bark to represent aspects of their two latest fragrances. Interestingly they collaborated with a sound artist to complement the art, creating a more immersive experience by engaging additional senses.

London Design Festival - RIBA Regent St

2. London Atelier Crabtree & Evelyn Window

London Atelier transformed Crabtree & Evelyn’s window into a beautiful herbarium display. It used a grid of backlit ‘panes’ or ‘tiles’ of soap with beautifully preserved pressed flowers, herbs and plants to create impact. The soap, of course, used Crabtree and Evelyn’s recipes, which in the theme of multisensory engagement, also smelt divine.

London Design Festival - Crabtree & Evelyn

3. Conran & Partners for Brooks Brothers

The installation was a flock of white collars captured mid-flight with a single gold button-down leading the formation. London-based ceramicist Billy Lloyd sculpted, stretched and sensitively personalised each collar into its dynamic form, reiterating the concept of birds in flight.

London design festival - Conran Partners

Tate Britain Sensorium > Touch, Smell and Eat your art

Featuring four paintings from the Tate collection, Sensorium is an immersive art experience to stimulate all your senses. The ambition is to determine whether sensory engagement can change the way we see art. Visitors are encouraged to record their physiological response to each painting, creating a new approach to interpreting artwork – we don’t just look, we feel.

Looking at Francis Bacon’s WW2 painting, the taste section involved an ugly edible charcoal – “to bring out the pictures dark nature” partnered with an equally uncomfortable, industrial soundtrack. Perhaps unsurprisingly this experience resulted in the strongest recorded physiological reaction. The response is recorded on wristbands that gauge electrodermal activity; a measure of perspiration, which indicates how calm or excited wearers are.

London Design Festival - Francis Bacon

Moments of Reflection – Dominic Harris

Dominic Harris’s solo exhibition explores human perceptions and expressions of the self through the artistʼs signature use of advanced digital technology.

‘Vanity Mirror’ reflects the viewer’s image back at them 180 times. It contains cameras embedded into each screen. It’s powerfully egotistical as the viewer dominates the artwork.

“Harris explores the multiplicity of the image in contemporary society and by extension the notion of celebrity as self, which has been engendered by the rise of social media. Furthermore, Vanity Mirror visually realises the concept of the fragmented psyche within a digitally led, postmodern society.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

London Design Festival - Vanity mirror