Design Festival Special: Exclusive Behind The Scenes Interview At The V&A

Home to one of the richest and most diverse collections in the world, the V&A has been the centrepiece to the capital’s creative cultural scene since Queen Victoria laid its foundation stone back in 1857. It is fitting then that it should supply the (glorious) backdrop to the London Design Festival, now in full swing, where the city’s cutting edge designers are busy revealing their vision for the future.

The V&A’s guiding axiom? ‘We enrich people’s lives by promoting the practice of design and increasing knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world.’ This weekend sees the piece de résistance: the digital weekend will concludes the seven-strong themes covered in the festival, which has spanned graphics, architecture, future, home, interactive, London (on today) and, finally, digital.

Ahead of the weekend fun, we get the lowdown from Vicky Broackes, head of the London Design Festival at the V&A, to find out how this year’s festival is panning out.

What do you think design brings as an art form rather than as a functional/practical solution to a problem?

This is a really interesting question. In terms of the work on display at the V&A, all the installations come from a design background; the end result can look like a work of art, but is always the outcome of a design process. For example, an installation like Candela, on display in the V&A’s Tapestry gallery, could be an art object, but in reality is produced by production, graphic and light designers using their skills to solve problems and make a design object.

That said, of course nothing on display at the V&A is for sale; the works selected for inclusion in the museum’s programme are chosen for their innovation, experimental nature or because the designer is pushing boundaries.

Are there any designers you’d recommend to keep an eye on?

Any and all of the young designers featured in ‘The Wish List – What I Have Always Wanted Is…’ project are worth watching – they are a fantastic bunch. The project sees 10 design legends working with 10 emerging talents to design and make something that the mentor has always wanted.

It’s a fascinating and exciting project, and the objects on show really reflect the skills of the designers and the influence of each mentor who commissioned the piece. Roland Lamb, designer of the award-winning Seaboard, was awarded the Swarovski Emerging Talent Medal this year.

Can you describe the curation of the V&A design installations in a nutshell?

That’s a rather tricky thing to do! LDF is such a wide-ranging festival at the V&A; we work with everyone from the most established artists, like Zaha Hadid, to our artists in residence at the museum. The role involves bringing together designers, the design industry, and the general public to create a melting-pot of design at the Museum that shows the best of design but is also widely accessible. We also augment the programme with a huge variety of events, from talks to tours, screenings and workshops.

How has design in today’s market evolved over the last years?

At the V&A we have noticed the appetite for design increase. The museum has been the hub of the London Design Festival for the last six years, and in that time audiences have doubled to 110,000. It seems that our visitors are more interested in how design is part of all our everyday lives.

Did you notice any changes in the designer’s work compared to last year’s festival?

What I’ve noticed over the whole period of LDF running at the V&A is how interdisciplinary, and indeed multidisciplinary, designers has become. We’re seeing more and more projects where designers from different disciplines are working together. Our collections at the V&A are based on design materials, so the interdisciplinary works on display remind us how far design has come.

Sum up what this year’s design festival means to the V&A in one sentence…

We hope it’s for everybody – and it’s huge fun.

The London Design Festival concludes this weekend.

London Design Festival; various locations across London; 13-21 September; londondesignfestival.comV&A Museum; Digital Design Weekend; Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL; Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 10:00-17:45, Fri 10:00-22:00; Digital weekend: Design Festival at V&A: photo courtesy of BMW, thumbnail courtesy of Ed Reeve

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