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RCA Designers, Researchers and Alumni at London Design Festival 2017

London Design Festival (LDF) is an annual celebration of design excellence and innovation that takes place across the capital every autumn. It offers the perfect opportunity to encounter innovative design from staff, students, researchers, recent graduates and established alumni of the Royal College of Art. This year, RCA alumni and former staff have won three of the four prestigious British Land London Design Festival Awards: Margaret Calvert OBE was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal, Paul Priestman of PriestmanGoode was awarded the Design Innovation Medal, and Julian Melchiorri was awarded the Emerging Talent Medal.

In the Dyson Gallery in Battersea, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design will be showcasing recent projects in one of the only LDF exhibitions to focus exclusively on socially inclusive design. From 19 to 22 September Design.Different will showcase innovative design solutions that tackle some of society's most pressing issues, from design for an ageing population and cost-effective healthcare, to driverless cars and urban living. This exhibition demonstrates how designers use their skills, passion, enterprise and endeavour to make a difference by improving people’s lives.

At Borough Market, students, graduates and researchers from the RCA Design Products programme have created a treasure trail of ‘food design thinking’. Among the world famous food stalls, Food Design Thinking applies design thinking, scientific and engineering expertise to the complete food supply and consumption cycle. The 12 interactive displays, installed 20–23 September, will include a demonstration and opportunity to try tofu prepared in one of the most popular ways in China by current student Ting-Yu Liu.

Also on display is an interactive toolkit, designed by Florencia Sepúlveda Camposano, which aims to help children develop adventurous and healthy eating habits by integrating storytelling and hands-on activities. Adults will be able to interact with Design Products Research Associate Mark Selby and Tutor Paris Selinas’ series of augmented tools, such as a knife with an embedded accelerometer, that have been designed to track the development of kitchen skills.

Alumni of the RCA are involved in projects across LDF, including some of the main commissions and events at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Product Design alumni Ross Lovegrove has created a major commission for the tapestry gallery. Transmission is a sculpture over 20 metres long and made from folded material that uses Alcantara® digital printing and digitally generated embroidery. The installation responds to the colours and atmosphere of the tapestry gallery, which displays the medieval Devonshire Hunting Tapestries. 

Exhale is a bionic chandelier created by Julian Melchiorri an Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) graduate, entrepreneur and winner of this year’s LDF Emerging Talent Medal. Drawing inspiration from the V&A’s collections, Exhale is the world’s first living and breathing chandelier utilising novel bionic-leaf technologies.

The Global Design Forum, a week-long celebration of design through talks, discussions and workshops, is also taking place at the V&A during LDF. As part of this on 21 September Paul Priestman, Designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode and winner of the LDF Design Innovation Medal, is a panel member for a discussion about the future of transport design.

On 18 September, Rector of the RCA Dr Paul Thompson and Head of Intelligent Mobility Professor Dale Harrow will be taking part in the Arts Thread talk, Opportunities in Design, at the V&A. They will be joined by Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President for Global Design at Nissan and Alex Brownless, co-founder and director of Arts Thread, along with Mamrou Aoki, Executive Design Director, Nissan Design Centre; Priyanka Gaitonde, Senior Designer, Nissan Design; and Dr. Ashfaq Ishaq, Executive Chairman of the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF).

Elsewhere in the museum, RCA alumni have responded to the V&A’s unique collection. V&A Gilbert Collection resident and RCA Jewellery & Metal graduate Silvia Weidenbach is exhibiting her jewellery alongside pieces from the Gilbert Collection, a collection of European and British masterpieces including gold and silver, gold boxes, painted enamels and mosaics. Four porcelain sculptures will be on display amongst masterpieces of the V&A’s sculpture collection by Sculpture graduate Rachel Kneebone and Fashioning Space is a textiles installation created by alumni Holly Fulton, Laura Slater and James Lambert in collaboration with Intoart, an art and design studio based in Peckham working inclusively with people with learning disabilities.

The Woman’s Hour Craft Prize is on display at the V&A during LDF and features numerous RCA alumni. An astonishing nine of the 12 shortlisted makers graduated from the RCA, including ceramicist Alison Britton, furniture designer Peter Marigold and bespoke bicycle frame builder Caren Hartley who studied Jewellery & Metal at the RCA.

Other venues where work from RCA alumni is on display include: 

  • Decorex International 2017, the UK’s only show for high-end interior design, which is taking place at Syon Park 17–20 September. The Future Heritage selection will be showcasing designs from Jesper Eriksson, Fabio Hendry, Martijn Rigters, Silo Studio, Tamsin van Essen, Alicja Patanowska, Katie Spragg and Ashraf Hanna.
  • Design Frontiers at Somerset House features works from 30 international designers pushing the frontiers of the design world including RCA alumni PriestmanGoode, Ian Callum of Jaguar and Tord Boontje.
  • A selection of Innovations for working & learning spaces of the future created by recent IDE graduates will be on display at KI’s (Krueger International, Inc.) London office at 8–10 New Fetter Lane. The works include winner of this year’s KI Award, Pratik Ghosh’s ‘Drop by Drop’, a natural plant-based water filtration system, as well as projects from a number of other outstanding alumni including Daljinder Sanghera, Maya Pindeus and Ahreum Jung, whose designs demonstrate how design and engineering can improve our lives.
  • At Playground London, a curatorial space and design studio in Dalston, Design Products graduate Jule Waibel has created a room-filling, playful installation of objects and sculptures. On 17 September there is also an opportunity to meet Jule Waibel and take part in a three-hour workshop to create one of her iconic keyrings.
  • The Victor Papanek Foundation Symposium on Design Ethics is taking place on 22 September at the Austrian Embassy. Current RCA PhD candidate Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, who is a designer, artist and writer working with experimental synthetic biology, and its ethical implications, will be speaking on Bio-Synthetics and Artificial Intelligence.


Design.Different is on display in the RCA's Dyson Gallery, Battersea from 19–22 September.

Find out more about London Design Festival events.