From Iceland — DesignMarch Festival Director's Address

DesignMarch Festival Director’s Address

Published March 22, 2012

DesignMarch Festival Director’s Address

Dear Reader,
Velkominn To DesignMarch!
As you may have heard, we Icelanders are particularly picky about our words. Isolated by the Atlantic Ocean, “Íslenska” has changed so little that we all still read (suffer through) the ancient sagas in school, in their original form as they were written in the 800s. Whenever a modern phenomenon washes up on our shores, the Icelandic Language Council SWAT team is called in to decide on an appropriate term. For example, we use “tölva” (derived from the words “number” and “all-knowing”) for computer, and app for, well, app.
First things first, we think. Surely one cannot go about doing things without knowing what to call them, right?
So naturally, the decision to put on a design festival was followed by the need to find a name for it.
We were in new territory. The design scene in Iceland is so young that even the word for design itself, “hönnun” (work the aspiral “h” as though you were the big bad wolf blowing the house down and the ö is pronounced like ‘e’ in ‘the”), is a relatively new.
We thought and thought. It was early 2009, and our offices were located by the Austurvöllur square. For a month and a half, we couldn’t hear our voices from the steady beat of the pots and pans revolution, not to mention our thoughts.
So we bought earplugs and thought some more. Finally, someone came up with the idea “HönnunarMars” or “DesignMarch” in English. We thought it was only appropriate to name an entire month in our honour, while we were at it. If the Vikings did it, why shouldn’t we?
And we thought, what better time to launch a design festival for a young, emerging design scene than spring, when the Arctic nature comes to life after a long, polar winter—and the name evoked it beautifully. Cherry on top, both “Mars” and “March” have double meanings: the month of year, and to walk for an important cause. Perfect!
And then, I broke my right arm. We finally had this fine name for our brand new festival, and I couldn’t even write it down!
The following year we decided to organize a “speed dating” event for designers and buyers to create business opportunities. And again, we needed a name.
We thought and thought and thought some more, and finally came up with “DesignMatch,” which was probably the worst idea ever, considering all the misunderstandings it has led to.
This year, we have been trying to name our opening lecture series event. “DesignTalks” is our best idea so far, what do you think? Go listen to them by the way—among the speakers is the Finnish architect and urbanist Tuomas Toivonen, who will rap through his lecture. Yes, you read right, rap as in hip-hop.
What next? DesignWalks after the Talks, or a student work series DesignHatch to match the Match?
Words aside, with DesignMarch, we want to show you a good time. Instead of a fancy pants design week for stuck-up professionals, ours is a town fair that ten percent of the entire nation joins. Whether it’s a fishermen’s hut, ice cream booth, gallery or café, DesignMarch turns Reykjavík into one huge venue for design.
I hope you will meet fun people, be inspired and have the March (and Match and Talks) of your life.
Greipur Gíslason
Festival Director
Iceland Design Centre

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