Design Week stands for an international inspiring event showcasing aspirational work from great emerging designers. Throughout the planet, various countries and cities host this exciting annual exhibition, where visitors can breathe an air of bubbling ideas, interactive perspectives, new design approaches, state of the art technologies and a fair amount of stimulating networking.

Oasis magazine invited three talented London established curators to share their experiences whilst curating Design Week, and to offer some useful and compelling insights into one of the most prestigious and invigorating events in the Design world. With them, we learnt about their most recent projects and travelled to New York, London and Poland, the high seas of such memories, and the Dos and Don’ts at Design Week.

LIVIA Lauber set up her own studio LORIS&LIVIA in London in 2008 with Loris Jaccard to research, design and develop characterful pieces, versatile interiors and ideas that challenge the way people engage
with the world around them. Their approach is strongly influenced by their Swiss design heritage and British multicultural life, and by their preference for personal interpretation over signature style.

MARIA Jeglinska established her Office for Design
& Research in London in 2010 and works on industrial design projects, exhibition design and research-based projects (St Etienne Design Biennale). Maria is an associate researcher at W.I.R.E, an independent think tank based in Zu?rich. In 2012, she curated and designed the ‘Ways Of Seeing/Sitting’ exhibition at the ?ód? Design Festival in Poland.

RIA Hawthorn works at the Design Museum in London, where she curates and is the Manager for the Touring Programme, looking after traveling exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Ria has worked with several Design Museums and exhibits around the world and has visited numerous design weeks.

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Oasis: What’s your involvement with Design Week and how long have you been associated with it?
Livia: Since I started studying Design in 2001, I regularly visited or exhibited at various design fairs. Here in London, I have been involved since 2006, first with Tom Dixons Company. Then, in 2008 my Design Studio LORIS&LIVIA showed a new collection of furniture in the east-end. Afterwards I worked with Established and Sons where we had every year a show during London Design Week and Milan Furniture Fair.

In September 2012 I teamed up with Maria Jeglinska and it was the first time I curated a show and produced everything from scratch during London Design Week 2012. Last year 2013, Maria and I showed the exhibition “Wonder Cabinets of Europe” during ICFF in New York. That was the first time I changed continents to explore design.

Maria: I regularly exhibit at Design Weeks all over Europe: Milan, Paris and London. Already before I was involved with them while I was working and interning in various design practices. However, in September 2012 it was the first time I initiated with Livia an exhibition “Wonder Cabinets of Europe” from scratch. It was a very fulfilling experience. The need came from the fact that we wanted to show our work within our own “contexts”. Hence came the idea of referencing the show to wonder cabinets.

Ria: I’ve been visiting the London Design Festival and other fairs since I was a student and have worked on several exhibitions presented during Design Week, most recently Designer in Residence 2012, which opened just before the London Design Festival in order to provide maximum exposure for the designers’ work. The annual exhibition is one of the core parts of the Design Museum’s exhibition programme where four young designers are selected following a call for entries. We commission the designers to create new work for an exhibition at the Design Museum.

Oasis: What’s the first word or idea that comes to mind when thinking of Design Week? And why, in your opinion, are design events crucial, alternately to concentrating on art-related ones?
Ria: Progress. In a good year at any Design Week, one hopes to see innovative new work, technologies and ideas. Design and art are two related but very different disciplines and it’s important that both have events that work for each industry. Design festivals have two roles. They are a platform for the presentation and exchange of ideas and new work and it is a time for the design community to meet each other, see what their peers are doing, and discuss new ideas and trends. Secondly, design weeks act as a commercial showcase for new products. Designers and manufacturers are, on the most part, there to promote and sell their work or skills.

Livia: Exchange, I would say. It is an exchange of design ideas, design philosophies… It is also very much related to exploring. But I think the notion of exchange is very important, young designers have a dialogue with manufacturers, designers share their point of view with their designer colleagues, exhibitors innovate, visitors and potential clients comment on the innovations. Last but not least, there are a lot of business card exchanges, Design Week provides a platform for networking, meeting new people, making friends, and creating business.
It also provides a platform to show innovation and experiments, it pushes the boundaries of the discipline and has of course a very important economic aspect.

Maria: Meetings, discussions. I truly enjoy meeting new people and seeing old friends. It challenges your perception of things.
For companies, it is the time when they launch new products. There are so many of them at the moment. So it is hard to see if those companies who attend let’s say 3 to 4 design weeks/fairs are making a profit out of it. I’m also curious to know how much time they need to turn a prototype into a selling product.
I think it also became a commercial success for cities that provide the backdrop for such events. Imagine the number of people that flock to Milan in April and how much money they leave behind. It’s interesting to see what effect it has on a city beyond the event itself. I think the city of London is quite clever in that sense and sees the economic potential. I’m not sure Milan does takes full advantage of it… The city is always poorly prepared for the invasion of the industry.
But there is still so little done in that sense. I praise organization like the Brompton Design District under Jane Wither’s curatorship, who help and give young designers the means to show their work (like we did). It has proven to be one of the nicest areas to view quality-work. There should be much more organisations like this.

Oasis: Tell us about your most recent experience curating Design Week from a logistic approach. Headache or thrill?
Livia: Thrill. We drove with a Luton Van over Brooklyn Bridge to transport the content of the exhibition to the Javits Centre, in Manhattan. Nice memory!
This year in New York I must admit the paper work that was involved for the exhibition was quite impressive. But if we would do it again it would already be much faster.

Maria: I think if we had know what organizing a show in the US involved we would have probably not done it! Dealing with the US paperwork and unions was a very rewarding experience. A great memory was the last day and its dismantling… Somehow it all felt a bit surreal and we had a few adventures on the way.

Ria: With any exhibition there are logistical headaches – most recently the exhibition design hadn’t been finalised a few weeks before the exhibition was due to open but luckily it all came together in the end. The opening is always a thrill – all the hard work has finished and the team and exhibitors can celebrate and enjoy seeing the visitors having a first look at the exhibition.

Oasis: What’s the category of design that you usually most look forward to see at Design Week?
Maria: All of them! That’s what makes it interesting.
Livia: Furniture and product design from various companies. I do also like to see what design academies
produce. The creations are often a bit less commercial and more playful.
Ria: My main area of interest is furniture and product design but design is changing so fast at the moment with digital technologies making a big impact, I am keen to keep track on what is happening in other disciplines too.