London Design Festival celebrates the city as a design capital on the global stage and this year didn’t disappoint. From digital brain massages, a meeting place in the metaverse and inflatable architecture, we came away feeling restored and optimistic about the year ahead. We caught up with isin’s Design Director Rhianne van Rheede-Toas about her take on the festival and what the next year has in store.

What was the overarching theme of this year’s event?

The main themes I took from this year were transformation & optimism. Spaces of restoration that have the ability to transform your head space and perceptions. Into Sight and Weird Sensation Feels Good were both multi-sensory installations where forms of play were needed to discover the full experience of the space. I left them feeling replenished and it was a relief moment from the outside world of the city.

How were transformation and optimism explored?

It was really interesting to see digital being used as a form of restoration, it gave your brain a little massage. Many of the installations explored the coexistence of physical and meta realities, we are a cyborg nation where our experiences are enhanced by our mobile phone which most of us are connected to most of the day. We blend from physical to virtual reality seamlessly without thought. This enhancement has created haste within our worlds and a lot of us are overly stimulated, needing to find ways to slow down and recoup.

Experiencing a solution through space that blends both physical and virtual elements where reality can be enhanced/ become playful but still create a space for mental recalibration felt relevant and needed.

How will this influence retail over the next year? 

Brands have started to cultivate spaces for their community and we have seen over the years stores / retail destinations becoming more of community hubs blending experience and visceral connection with product. Wanting to offer to their community more than a transactional exchange but something of deeper meaning. An investment within their communities’ well-being, I believe, will be the next step through space or workshops within space. An uplifting experience that brings the collective together leaving their community with the feeling of restoration and optimism. 

Sustainability was another big theme this year, how was this explored? 

The overarching essence relating to sustainability was the exploration and innovation around the circularity of materials and the processes that inform design.  There were a couple of stand out examples.

Beyond Sustainability – a zero waste dining experience that explored key sustainability behaviours by posing important questions. Is sustainability just a cost to businesses, or is it a competitive advantage that drives growth and innovation? Should leaders let customers set the sustainability agenda, or should they proactively set it and help to shape these behaviours? Can businesses succeed in their sustainability goals alone, or does the power of partnership drive industrial change and create new technologies? Asking these questions is a really refreshing way to look at how innovation within process and procurement can allow for a sustainable strategy to shape a project. I believe that more brands will move in this direction – form will follow function, process will inform the design and the materials used to create it.

Another good example of this approach in action was Material Matters – a design fair dedicated to the importance of materials and their ability to shape our lives. A curation of designers and maker’s whose visual outcomes are informed by a strategy and process that allows for circularity.

What were your highlights?

Want to keep up with What isin? Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram.