Yinka Ilori, Ken Garland and Paola Antonelli recognised with 2020 London Design Medals

Each of this year's London Design Medal recipients represent, and comment on, the importance of creativity amidst uncertainty.

7 September 2020

Despite obvious disruption to its annual schedule, London Design Festival today announces the winners of its 2020 London Design Medals, highlighting four innovative leaders across design mediums.

Leading this year’s winners is Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator and director of research and development. Receiving the highest accolade at the awards, the London Design Medal, in being chosen, Antonelli is recognised for consistently demonstrating design excellence across her career.

“I realise that the right thing to say would be that I am humbled by this honour, but I’m not!” says Antonelli on her award win. “I’m unabashedly proud to have received the London Design Medal and shamelessly boastful. Of all the capitals of design, London is the one that best understands our field’s breadth, versatility, diversity, and its power to influence society in all aspects of life, everywhere and at all levels of impact.”

As well as her work with MoMA Antonelli is also currently working on @design.emergency, an Instagram and book project in collaboration with heralded design writer, Alice Rawsthorne, looking at the role of design with the global response to Covid-19. On this note, the museum curator adds: “Design is important, and it is an important moment for design. I thank the jury for recognising me, as being an effective advocate for design and letting the world understand and embrace it, is my life’s work.”

This year’s Emerging Design Medal, which recognises “an impact made on the design scene within five or so years of graduation,” goes to Yinka Ilori. Another achievement on the list for Ilori following a speedy few years of incredible commissions and worthy accolades, the artist, who’s work fuses “his British and Nigerian heritage to tell new stories in contemporary design,” adds: “It feels good to know that my work has been recognised by London Design Festival in a time where, in my opinion, design is more important than ever. I just hope my work inspires the next generation of young designers with a similar background to me. I really am grateful and excited for the future.”

Also awarded is Dame Ellen MacArthur, a yachtswoman who went onto found the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which aims to accelerate “the transition to a circular economy, one that is restorative and regenerative, by design,” explains London Design Festival. Awarded the Design Innovation Medal, which celebrates “entrepreneurship in all its forms,” MacArthur too highlights the importance and need for conscious design in her acceptance of the award. “2020 has been a year of unprecedented disruption,” she says, “but seeing people in the creative sector using their skills and talent to build a more circular economy gives me hope that we can build back better.”

At the other end of the award’s spectrum is its Lifetime Achievement Medal, this year awarded to graphic designer, photographer, writer and educator, Ken Garland. Recognising Garland’s continued dedication to the design industry, notably through teaching at the Central School London, The University of Reading, The Royal College of Art and the University of Brighton, he accepts the award by adding: “I am delighted to be chosen as the recipient of one of the London Design Medals. At my age (91) I had thought I was a forgotten person – but no, someone still remembers me! As to achievement: all my associates and I did for 50-odd years was to have a lot of fun at other people’s expense. We were so lucky!”

The award ceremony will this year be held digitally, available to watch via London Design Festival’s various channels next Monday, 14 September 2020.

GalleryLondon Design Festival, The London Design Medals 2020


Ken Garland in his studio


Ken Garland: Cover of first Galt Toys catalogue, 1961. Photography by KG. (Images courtesy of Adrian Shaughnessy)


Yinka Ilori photographed by Andrew Meredith


A Large Chair Does Not Make a King, an installation for the African Centre. Photography by Andrew Meredith.


Paola Antonelli, photograph by Marton Perlaki


Paola Antonelli, Broken Nature

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London Design Festival 2020: Ken Garland: Poster and logo for the Camden Committee for Community Relations, 1966. (Images courtesy of Adrian Shaughnessy)

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.


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