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October 17th, 2023

Josh

What inspired us most

Our recent visit to explore this year’s design festival in London inspired us with themes, trends and innovation, which felt deeply connected to experiential & cultural codes.  The connection to culture and experiential narratives created a mystical atmosphere, expressing themes of surrealism, the hyper-physical and transportive, other-worldly stories.

1) Unstruck Melody – By Nirbhai Singh Sidhu x WSWF

We were greatly inspired by the collaborative work between British-born Canadian artist Nirbhai Singh Sidhu and UK arts organisation, ‘Without shape Without form’, in an exhibition entitled ‘Unstruck Melody’. Within the exhibition, they bring together their spiritual practices and artisanal knowledge of craft into a new art installation. The artworks include tapestries, sculptures, and film to take the viewer on the journey the artist took of self-discovery whilst at the same time, introducing Sikh teachings through a contemporary lens. The installation explores the impact of design on present-day Sikh culture, delving into symbolism and the formlessness of the divine through the expression of possibilities and the search for spiritual connection.

The exhibition, according to the artist, was inspired by a number or universal Sikh practices of transferring knowledge (‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’), focussed repetition (‘Simran’), selfless service (‘Seva’) and community (‘Sangat’). The individual pieces of art were created to act as tools for the visitor to engage with this methodology of practicing spirituality and help the individual embark on a transformative journey of the mind. Through this, the diverse geographical heritages and lineages of the Indian sub-continent are expressed with even the name of the installation directly referencing the ‘Anhad Shabad’ or ‘Shabad Guru’, which is the internal sound that can be heard within us all through deep listening, which for Sikhs is the access point to divine knowledge.

We were particularly moved to see the Sikh community attending and engaging with the artwork as well as people of varied faiths and diverse backgrounds, ourselves included, allowing us to discover a completely unexpected and contemporary expression of their cultural and spiritual identity. The work explored the theme with such reverence that it was hard not to be emotionally moved by the glorious beauty of the exhibition. With its vibrant use of colour and focused yet dramatic lighting provided a unique take on enlightening others about the rich culture and belief system. Although those of us who attended were people of differing backgrounds to the artist, we were still able to experience the sense of community and feel connected to the compassion, humility and generosity expressed by the artist’s work and the teachings found within the Sikh faith through the exhibition’s narrative.

2) &Bouqu — ‘Tales of our land — Flora & Fauna’

Creative consultants, &B, invited visitors to the London design fair to discover the flora and fauna of Saudi Arabia, the home of the agency. Aiming to transport visitors to the lesser known geographic and cultural nuances of the Saudi Arabian landscape, they reimagined the diverse natural wonders of their land framing it from a different, deeper perspective. From vibrant hues of the sea to the wind-carved dunes of the desert, they evoked the almost surreal connection to their land of origin.

The Saudi Arabian narrative is told through the creation of focussed artifacts and sensory objects that enliven the sense of smell, touch, and sight, connecting to an almost magical yet contemporary take on a bazaar of artful moments. They described their installation as a woven narrative of Saudi’s tangible and in-tangible gems, captured through lifestyle and cultural products that take visitors on a sensorial journey of Saudi nostalgia

The visual impact of their installation and the purity of its repetitious forms really caught our eye and had us intrigued to learn the deeper relevance and its connection to their cultural origin. By engaging with the staff and the displays we learned that swathe of purple floral elements that build the structure of the installation were in fact, designed to reflect the vast fields of lavender that are grown in Saudi. This theme of cultural depth is further explored through items of desire such as candles which carry the scents synonymous with the region, such as frankincense, cardamom, and citrus, representing the flora of the land. The fauna of the land was represented by playful art toys and sculptures that show the softer side of agencies identity and the animals that call the Saudi habitat their home. Overall, the power of the lavender tone and the silvery metallic materials paired with sensorial evocations, create a new image for Saudi-based design, challenging perceptions and the OTT luxury stereotypes that don’t reflect the nation as a whole. The experience was beautifully summarised by the tagline — #UnexpectedlySaudi

3) Generative ceramic morphogenesis — SPECTROOM + Digital craft DVF

Generative Ceramic Morphogenesis is a research project that describes the relationship between Humanity, software, hardware, materials, and creative thought. Through the combination of contemporary digital craft methods and ancient ceramic techniques the collaboration of SPECTROOM & Digital Craft DVF created a series of outcomes that feel of another world or another time – the ceramic forms of the future.

Together they have a goal to explore how to write ‘G-code’ (machine language) creatively, instead of a purely technical or functional approach. They state “If ‘Code is Poetry’, we want to use the cartesian coordinates system to connect the dots and generate new paths using textual and visual programming languages – The essence of creative computation”. Through exploring the planar, non-planar, what is regular and the irregular, they discover new and unexpected methods of creative expression.

The first outcomes displayed at the London Design Fair, feel both ancient and of the future, with forms that evoke another world or another timeline. We are taken back to ancient Greece with forms reminiscent of an ‘Amphora’ used to transport oils or wine, yet in contrast, we see futuristic details apparent in 3D printing and generative modelling.

In our opinion, this ancient/hyper-modern aesthetic is a vernacular that will, and is, becoming synonymous with both a more sustainable future and a tell-tale trope of the new luxury. The connection between humans and machines will result in a new aesthetic era of creativity where the surreal and real blend, blurring the lines between the imagination and real-life possibilities. With barriers to the imagination being unlocked through freedom to create and form in new ways, our reality can be altered and shaped like the mythological beings of ancient lore that provide inspiration to this day for craft, art, and culture.

 4) Gencork & Blackcork by Sofalca — The Natural Escape.

Gencork’s experiential space entitled ‘The Natural Escape’ was a dwell space designed to envelop the design community in an environment purely focussed on the rich sustainable material. The design of the space explores the convergence of architecture and design, the interplay of light and shadow, and expresses openness and enclosure. The material covers floor to ceiling, aiming to excite the senses and spark conversation on the vernacular of sustainability. Partnering with generative cork patterns by Le Brimet (SPECTROOM), and minimalist furniture by Toni Grilo, the collaborative space feels like a space for the creative community to belong.

For us at D4R, we felt like the space was irreverent, evoking a temple dedicated to cork. This commitment to a single material gives it a sense of strength with the rich, boldly toned material and the forms it was applied to, creating a monolithic look and feel. The design of the space created niches for quiet reflection, and though engineered in structure, formed an innate connection to nature. Though dark in appearance, the enveloping use of the brown cork felt warm and inviting, like a sanctuary of tactile texture. The space was inherently tactile and almost compelled us to touch the materials. This was an especially visceral and sensory experience within an area where the floor was covered in loose granules of cork, which underfoot, evoked feelings of comfort.

5) Salak Studio – ‘An otherworldly yet timeless landscape’

Hailing from Poland, Salak studio brought their unique brand of furniture design to the London design fair. To showcase their brand and timelessly minimalist pieces, they created an otherworldly landscape in which their designs were nestled. We were transported to a cosmic desert reminiscent of the alien scenes in the cult classic film, ‘Dune’. Although almost alien in aesthetic, an inviting feel is created through the soft tonal colour palette and the use of softening fabric contrasting the raw and craggy rockface below.

The products on display within the Salak stand evoke a minimalist aesthetic, yet they carry an almost ceremonial feel. Serendipitously positioned within a simulated landscape, the furniture feels like a lost artefact from an advanced culture. A combination of tonal white, sand, and brushed steel evokes a Martian habitat yet feels welcoming, like a new biome to explore. The studio says they ‘believe that the aphorism “less is more” is timeless; therefore, the minimalist forms will find their place in any space.’— This is evidently expressed in the presentation of their work in the unexpected landscape they have constructed for the design fair, with their furniture and design accessories seeming right at home in the rugged realm they have realised.

Mysticism & Culture

Mysticism and culture are intertwined in various ways, with mysticism often playing a significant role in shaping and influencing cultural beliefs, practices, and expressions. With many of the world’s major religions having mystical traditions and practices at their core, it is evident that mysticism has been a source for historical culture as well as contemporary culture, as we have seen from our findings at LDF. The combination of culture and mysticism can evoke deep emotion and a profound connection among followers and consumers.

So where do we come in?

Just as people are drawn to the practices of mysticism, many are drawn to the aesthetic too, the stuff that comes with mysticism, not just the services but the accessories and the overall look and feel. If you’re a brand or retailer looking to design a retail space that’s reflective of current industry trends such as mysticism, then this is where we can help…

Let’s talk

Every trend has an opposite, a counterpart that is its antithesis, and these ‘design dualities’ is precisely what our latest insight report explores. Delving into these dualities is not merely about style; it’s decoding the unspoken conversation of fractured communities, seeking pathways for bridge building through forms that reflect our division. Request the report!