At a design event the size of London Design Festival, there’s invariably a heady array of big name designers dallying with form over function – even those projects that posses much thought, backstory and opinion end up falling foul to a glaring lack of practicality and purpose. But hey, practically is boring… no? Well, Variant – a group exhibition showcasing the talents of a selection of freshly graduated Kingston University students – was one such show putting the fun into functional.
From tableware that had morphed to better aid its primary function, to a measuring jug offering a familiar reference point – there was much to celebrate in the simplicity of these young designers’ thought processes. Lisa Marie Bengtsson’s Bye Bye Laundry was a real standout, using activated charcoal to keep laundry fresh – limiting the number of washes (and therefore environmental impact) that your clothes needed – whilst Ellie Whiston’s Expanding Upholstery sought to reduce the cost and eco-impact of shipping upholstered furniture by inflating a pre-shaped skin with isocyanate-free foam at its end-destination.
Jeff Lambert’s Places saw a series of beautiful objects created from bricks that represent areas across England, Sabina Weiss’ Contrastware was designed to assist the visually impaired and Ken Draper hoped to heighten consumer’s engagement in process, design and manufacturing with his DIY Slippers; which would make great gifts, would they not? There was conceptual here too, with Greg C Smith’s slightly unsettling Commemoration – a contemporary series of rituals for remembering the dead – however, the overriding feeling here was that form and function are not exclusive of each other, and that practicality is, thankfully, still a major concern to young designers.