Review of Clerkenwell Design Week by Colin Walsh

An inspirational afternoon at the Clerkenwell Design Week seeing the best in international contemporary design alongside a diverse collection of the most exciting home-grown designer-makers and hearing from thought-provoking industry authority Sadie Morgan.

As an annual CDW visitor the sight of the boarded up iconic Farmiloe Building elicited nostalgic memories for me. The building was previously the event hub, where everyone congregated around the biggest showcases of the year.

I also worked locally for several years and enjoyed views from the 3rd floor windows in St John Street seeing the filming of Batman and Sherlock Holmes and bumping into the likes of Idris Elba and Vigo Mortenson in my lunch break.

Playful use of space exploring a happy workplace

The upside of the Farmiloe closure meant the event had to work harder. With many more boutique-style pop ups and street activations ranging from abstract sculptures made from corian kitchen tiles to playful spaces including the vibrant Buzzijungle installation intermingled with interior suppliers pedalling their wares. 

Created by furniture company BuzziSpace in collaboration with Belgian designer Jonas Van Put the Buzzijungle explored what a happy, healthy workplace means today with a break out space for the future. 

How do we improve the way we live and work, was a common if not original theme. As were discussion on how Brexit is going to affect our industry, but on that we’ll have to ‘watch this space’.

Informed and thought-provoking speaker Sadie Morgan

Obviously its impossible to see everything in an afternoon, but I did attend a talk with Sadie Morgan an international lecturer on the importance of design in architecture and infrastructure; judge, and a founder partner of DRMM architects. 

Sadie’s perspective and delivery was extremely refreshing. I enjoyed her straight forward approach to design and the vital role it plays in all our lives. Many of her principles may seem obvious but it amazes me how often they’re not adhered to by the creative professions. 

Clever design solves problems and doesn’t have to cost a lot

Firstly, and one I truly agree with, is that good design doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It is problem solving and should ultimately save money and then ideally to start making money. Creative design is smart thinking turned into a reality to solve a problem. 

Good design connects people to places

Sadie was also very passionate about the importance of design to create a built environment that connects back to people and place is not just about a brand voice. 

She advocates designers helping major government-run infrastructure projects end up with joy rather than headache-inducing outcomes.

Look ahead and use design disruptively to enhance environments

As designers, we have a responsibility to look ahead, think disruptively and consider how developments in infrastructure can enhance people’s lives and the environment. 

Its not just about money. We can build a road that gets us from A to B or we can build a road that also looks amazing and benefits the environment and design in a way that adds value back. 

Give people the chance to interact with design, and enjoy the outcome

By considering long term goals beyond the basic function, design can have a social as well as environmental impact. This can happen organically because people naturally and intuitively engage with design. If you put an installation in front of people, you can guarantee they will use it, whether it be for seating, dancing or photography, it takes on meaning for the individual. These uses weren’t intended but should be celebrated. 

Stay true to your vision and be bold

No matter how many obstacles get thrown in a designer’s path, and there are many,  we must stay true to our vision and deliver on it. We mustn’t be frightened to have crazy ideas, be bold and disruptive and take the lead. As creatives we have a duty to shape the future including infrastructure which enhance people’s lives. 

Integrated disciplines will provide holistic solutions in creation and purpose

Sadie finished describing her vision of the future, where the boundaries of disciplines will blur. Architects and interior designers won’t work as separate entities. Services will be completed integrated to deliver a solution, creating an experience whether that is brand, culture or people driven. 

Design should be holistic in its creation and purpose, by stretching ideas, evolving and involving a varied skill set and by looking to the future we can create design that has longevity, looks beautiful and adds value. 

It’s time to look at the bigger picture. This is the reason we created Prosper, its exciting to know we are ahead of the game.

So Clerkenwell Design Week is over for another year. It was an inspirational afternoon seeing the latest lighting and product design from around the world alongside some of the most exciting home-grown designer-makers the show delivered a diverse range of the best in international contemporary design. 


Furniture and lighting on display in the old Fabric nightclub by binocular, Bert Fank and Swedese.

Boutique craft stalls in the House of Detention, a secret garden (can’t tell you where) the Double Vision geometric activation by Hakwood, BuzziJungle and Sadie Morgan’s lecture.


Closure of Farmiloe Building

Colin Walsh is Head of Branding at Prosper. For over two decades he has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world of retail sport, fashion and corporate branding working both in-house and agency side with brands including Primark, Lacoste, Speedo, Vodafone and Marks & Spencer

If you are interested to find out more about our integrated design, interiors and architecture, do please get in touch.

Colin Walsh

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