London Design Festival runs from 16–24 September, but with London's many faces and history of pioneering inventions, architecture and town planning, the city is a design Mecca year-round – there's masses to see and do whether you're a hardcore typography geek or you simply appreciate ingenuity. Here's our essential guide to seeing the best of design in London, from modern innovations to timeless classics.
Design icons around London
Design is an expansive term and London is an expansive place. You can find some of the world's best examples in the city's studios, shops and galleries, but the streets of the capital are also home to some design icons that are worth a close look on a trip to London.
As well as hosting a huge range of cultural events and exhibitions, the Barbican is an icon itself – one of the best-known examples of brutalist architecture. The style has often caused controversy around London, but the Barbican has remained a widely well-loved monument to the wonders of raw concrete and today the Barbican Estate is a Grade II listed building, making it a must-see.
At a time when modern minimalism is more en vogue, Tower Bridge isn't often touted as a masterful example of design. But not only is it instantly recognisable, it's also testament to the engineering advances made in Victorian Britain and remains eye-catching to the most jaded Londoner.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The QEOP is home to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a landmark sculpture designed by Turner Prize-winner Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond – an obvious modern design icon. But the park itself is the real triumph; it's a truly impressive example of modern urban landscaping and worth visiting for a walk around its venues and green spaces as much as for an event. Next to Stratford station, it's also handily less than 15 minutes on the DLR from London City Airport, so you can make it your first or last stop before a flight into or out of London.
The modern emblem of the London skyline is striking however you look at it. It spawned many a copycat with its distinctive futuristic styling, which you can spot from literally miles around. But inside it's also remarkable for giving you the best views of anywhere in the capital.
Book tickets for the View From The Shard with London City Airport.
London Design Festival brings together a huge number of events across the city and it's essential exploring if you're visiting in mid-September. The flagship gathering is the London Design Fair, which runs 21–24 September at the Old Truman Brewery. You can see crafts and creations from designers from all over the world showcasing the biggest range of styles, themes, forms and media you can imagine, from artisan pottery and hand-forged chef knives to woven furniture and Italian parquet flooring specialists.
As well as the city itself, London's museum scene is essential territory if you have even a passing interest in design, art or just how things are made.
Euston's Wellcome Collection is well-known as one of London's most thought-provoking and forward-thinking museums, exploring the connections between science and art. This autumn and winter it's running a can't-miss exhibition for design geeks and anyone interested in the way we think and communicate about health. Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? runs from September 2017 to January 2018, taking an insightful look at the role graphic design plays in healthcare communication around the world.
The Design Museum
London's Design Museum was reborn when it moved from its old site in Shad Thames to a new Kensington home in 2016, but it's been exhibiting, celebrating and educating about design in the capital since 1989. The museum's permanent Designer Maker User exhibit gives a wide-ranging introduction to all things design, with a huge variety of items from different disciplines, from road signs to footwear to electronics. Until October the Design Museum's California: Designing Freedom exhibition looks at the influence of Californian design on the world, from the colour and subversion of the hippy movement to world-conquering designs of Silicon Valley.
Well, of course. Museums aren't generally known for bombastic marketing tactics, and when the V&A describes itself as 'the world's leading museum of art and design', you know it's not hype – it's just simple fact.
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