Northern Design Festival 2016: displaying the charm of communicative design

7 October 2016

From today (7 October 2016) the Northern Design Festival will take place across Newcastle and Gateshead until 16 October. This year’s theme explores the initial creative spark, “Where do ideas come from? How do ideas evolve into furniture, products, posters, brands and buildings? And the things that surround us every day?” Director Karen Nairstone explains. In order to demonstrate the enormous breadth that UK designers cover, the exhibition explores a range of disciplines from graphic to lighting design, showcased by a scope of prestigious and upcoming creatives including Vaughan Oliver, A Practice for Everyday Life and Bryan Edmondson for Monotype, to name just a few.

Wandering around the exhibit you get a real sense of the communicative ethics that design is built upon. An example of this is Pentagram partner Angus Hyland’s exhibition of his range of sketchbook identities for Cass Art pads, an artwork of simple design execution which everyone can afford. Another is a site-specific installation by Assemble for its Granby Workshop, the social enterprise creating experimental products for the home. The workshop is just one set of the projects born out of the ongoing collaboration between the collective and Granby’s residents, demonstrating how high-end design can still have a community value.

Innovative processes also play a key part within the festival’s curation. Whether it’s Alan Kitching’s display of iconic letterpress works, a display of RIBA members concept sketches and technical drawings or a retrospective of industrial designer David Irwin’s chairs, thoughtful consideration to materials and resources is evident.

The majority of designers featured also have a connection to the north of England with many growing up, studying or settling there since. The Northern Design Festival is an opportunity to witness this hub of new and established creatives cultivating in the top half of the UK, with stirring and stimulating consequences.

The Northern Design festival is on now at various locations in Newcastle and Gateshead until 16 October.


Northern Design Festival: Assemble, Granby Workshop installation


Northern Design Festival: Assemble, Granby Workshop


Northern Design Festival: Nick James


Northern Design Festival: Electrik Sheep & Kirsty Adams


Northern Design Festival: Ajoto


Northern Design Festival: Chrissie Macdonald

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.

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