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Opinion: London Design Festival making right noises but graphics community needs to step up

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week editor-in-chef Rob Alderson welcomes the London Design Festival’s renewed focus on graphics but argues this is just the first step on a much longer journey. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

One of the most dismissive reviews of the Milan Salone I’ve ever heard is that “it’s all just about chairs.” While that’s not a charge that could be justly levelled at the London Design Festival (LDF) it is true that in the past the annual design jamboree has been accused of concentrating on some parts of the industry at the expense of others, and graphic design has more cause than most to feel overlooked.

So it was good to hear deputy LDF director Max Fraser explain at last week’s press preview that for 2013, there was a real focus on trying to bring graphics more to the forefront of the festival fold, a tacit recognition of its previous sidelining. This ambition manifested itself as a whole weekend devoted to graphics at the V&A and two exhibitions at the museum – Domenic Lippa’s Circular magazine showcase, and Collate: An experiment in collaborative publishing by London studio Six: Thirty (for which – in the interests of full disclosure – I should say I have contributed an essay).

So far so good, and the LDF organisers should be applauded for recognising and trying to plug this glaring gap in the festival. But on the LDF website you can search for events by discipline, and while the graphics category pulls up 34 results (some of which I’d argue are tenuous inclusions) furniture throws up no fewer than 120 separate matches.

Even accepting that furniture brands have the budgets and the commercial imperative to go big during an event like LDF, this is still quite some disparity. Clearly the festival must continue to encourage graphic practitioners to take part and foster the idea that this is an event which genuinely aims to engage with the entire design community.

But it would be great too if some of this city’s many brilliant design studios and agencies took the bull by the horns and ran exhibitions, talks or workshops to help us shout about quite how brilliant the graphic talent this city boasts really is. I accept that publishers like us have a part to play as well of course. So how about we all say now that LDF 2014 is going to be all about the graphics? We see you chairs. And we’re coming for you…

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.