Making It On Trend

Elevating London's Design Culture

The London Design Festival has been a celebration of that city’s creative workforce for nearly 20 years. Last fall, Squarespace partnered with LDF as the festival focused on freelancers and providing a platform for their portfolios, offering support and exposure for independent designers. We spoke with founder Ben Evans about how London’s creative culture has developed since the Festival’s first year, why it focused on freelance professionals in 2020, and what’s ahead in 2021.

Squarespace: On this year’s LDF site, you described London as the “global centre of design.” What qualities does the city possess that uniquely qualifies it for this role?

Ben Evans: London has the biggest creative economy of any city in the world and our design reputation is renowned — 1 in 6 people work in the creative industries. 

The design culture in London is unique as there is real breadth and depth across design disciplines and practices: from individuals and start-ups through to the bigger brands and companies. 

London has its own design personality and it is incredibly international — many designers may not have been born here but have chosen to live and work in the capital. In fact, many of our Medal Winners over the years made London their home. And one of our roles at the Festival is to tell these stories and shine a spotlight on the global design community here.

SQSP: How has the design community in London evolved since the first LDF in 2003?

BE: Over recent years the number of Partners and Design Districts have grown. The Design Districts and Routes each have their own personalities and identities and are made up of clusters of Partner events. Our Partners are a key part of the Festival programme, and they present new ideas, new products and new ways of thinking.

SQSP: What role do you think the Festival has played in shaping that community?

BE: When we first launched the Festival back in 2003, the vision we set out was to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world. 18 editions later, and our vision has never changed.

Showcasing is a key part of the sector and the platform the Festival offers is an opportunity to say something. We recognised this year that freelancers in particular have been impacted by the pandemic, and the Festival wanted to support this community by providing a voice to new talent and individuals. Partnering with Squarespace, we created a freelancer portal where freelancers can share design content and their portfolio with the Festival audience.

SQSP: How has your approach to programming and marketing the Festival changed with new trends and technologies?

BE: The Festival enjoys a highly engaged and growing social community of over 718,000. Our audience is global and hungry for content, and we try to make it easy for them to virtually see and hear what design in London has to offer.

In 2020, we presented greater online activity with Global Design Forum and innovative digital projects; and are constantly exploring new and imaginative formats to present design and promote discussion. 

All our talks and workshops are available on demand on our website so you can catch up on any you missed or wish to re-watch again.

SQSP: What aspect of LDF 2021 are you most excited about right now?

Design has a vital role to play in helping to solve the climate change crisis. We launched The Circular Design Project this year to curate and promote a series of stories, and seize the opportunity of the circular economy as a framework for positive global impact.

Throughout 2021 and beyond, the stories will continue to multiply, culminating at London Design Festival in September with an installation and exhibition, in addition to the opportunity to be presented at an international conference on climate change in November. All conversations are available online to watch.

Need to create or redesign your portfolio? Read our tips for creating a portfolio online, and get started with a new portfolio website.

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