From Iceland — Shrug Away The Stale Winter Torpor…

Shrug Away The Stale Winter Torpor…

Published March 17, 2014

And celebrate creativity at DesignMarch 2014

Shrug Away The Stale Winter Torpor…

And celebrate creativity at DesignMarch 2014

There is something incredibly alluring about the month of March: sometimes it’s the fresh and crispy scent of spring that lingers on the streets on sunny afternoons; other times it’s the lack of any sign that summer is approaching. One thing is certain though: the days are getting longer and brighter and it’s this time of year that Reykjavík starts to fill up with events that make it impossible for us not to shrug away our stale winter torpor. One of the first events on the list is the much anticipated DesignMarch festival taking place this year on March 27-30.

Conceived in 2009 a year after the Icelandic Design Centre opened, the festival boasts about 100 openings, exhibitions, lectures and workshops that give us the chance to connect with the emerging local design scene. Although it grows bigger every year, festival director Greipur Gíslason says he intends for DesignMarch to be more akin to a town fair than a big expo. “We never wanted to create an event of huge magnitude such as Airwaves,” Greipur says. “Nevertheless, the impact DesignMarch has on Icelandic design is quite important: we attract ten percent of the
nation and a fair number of tourists who are interested not only in design but also in experiencing Icelandic food, nature and culture.”

Pushing Professionalism

Ultimately their ambition is, as Greipur says, to push Iceland to a more professional environment. “The work that is done at the Iceland Design Centre has been very important for designers and the promotion of their work, in both a social and a business perspective,” affirms Guðný Hafsteinsdóttir, a ceramics furniture designer and project manager of the Society of Icelandic Ceramics Artists. “Yet, the event is also vital for the community as it helps people to get in touch with design and makes them more aware of it.”

Indeed, educating the public on the status of Icelandic Design is something that DesignMarch strives to accomplish every year. At the festival’s DesignTalks, whose theme this year is “Dealing with Reality,” prominent thinkers, businessmen and designers of our times discuss the role of design in present-day society, the challenges emerging artists have to face in the contemporary world and the importance of strategies and collaborations when building a creative business. “We want to explore the idea of designers as strategists and teach people how strategic thinking can work on different levels and contexts, from working in architecture to creating a new company,” Greipur explains.

This is a crucial and heartfelt topic for younger generations in particular, who will have the opportunity to listen to established and outstanding personalities such as Marco Steinberg, a former professor at Harvard University and consultant for the Finnish government, who will talk about design thinking in a non-design environment such as politics; Robert Wong, who will discuss cooperation between designers and international companies such as Google, where he currently works as chief creative officer; and legendary fashion designer Calvin Klein, who will present various strategies used by designers at different stages of their career, including the search for a suitable replacement.

Connecting With The Community

Of course there is no design festival without exhibitions and DesignMarch will be chock full of them for four days: from an ongoing auction organised by Guðný Hafsteinsdóttir and her colleague Unnur
Gröndal to individual presentations by Hanna Whitehead, Austurland: Designs from Nowhere and Staka that all seem to draw inspiration from Icelandic history and tradition. Hanna Whitehead will, for instance, be presenting a collection inspired by the Stone Age; Staka will show unique leather accessories inspired by famous characters of the Old Sagas; and Designs from Nowhere will present the result of workshops in which local and international designers focused on using local materials such as seaweed, stones and fishing nets. Finally, there’s also the annual Reykjavík Fashion Festival, attracting journalists and fashion enthusiasts who eagerly await new collections by established and emerging Icelandic fashion designers such as ELLA, JÖR and Magnea.

DesignMarch is all in all about taking a moment to observe things, to discern the bonds between objects, nature, history and reality. It’s about celebrating creativity and the endless struggle of human beings to create. But most of all, it’s about realising that the best way we can learn who we are or who we want to be, both as individuals and as nations, is by interacting with each other, sharing ideas, inspirations and meaningful unique stories. “We feel we can make an impact,” Greipur says. “We want to educate the public but also help people to connect in a familiar and intimate environment — not only the professionals but also the general public, together as a community.”

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