Trends from Clerkenwell Design Week 2022
Clerkenwell Design Week is the UK’s leading independent design festival. It sees an international community of creatives from a variety of different sectors and specialisms come together for a three-day extravaganza of hands-on workshops, product launches, networking events and showroom exhibitions.
But what design trends took centre stage this year? In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of the themes and values that dominated at CDW 2022. We’ve consolidated a wide landscape of different trends into three overarching categories – sustainable design, social design and sensory design – read on to learn more.
Championed as the new darling of the sustainability movement, ‘regenerative design’ sees architects and interior designers upgrade the old mantra of “reuse, reduce and recycle” into “restore, renew and replenish”. It actively encourages the design community to take more responsibility by creating products, materials and structures that contribute to the ecosystem in a positive way. The idea of regenerative design will hopefully result in the widespread adoption of strategies and philosophies that reverse the effects of climate change.
A key element of regenerative design is longevity…designing things that are future-proof and able to meet the needs of people in the decades (even centuries) to come. One way of achieving this is through trends such as biomimicry, the design approach inspired by the natural world that uses organic shapes and structures to create man-made substances and products without using as much energy.
At this year’s CDW, there were several events focusing on the importance of regenerative design, with material suppliers Havwoods offering a CPD on regenerative architecture and architect Michael Pawlyn hosting a talk on how the built environment can actively repair the planet.
The trend of biophilic design has been on the up for the last few years now but sees no signs of slowing down as we head further into 2022. Biophilic design refers to the concept of incorporating plants and other natural elements into buildings to increase the occupants’ exposure to the natural world. The physical and mental health benefits of biophilic design have been widely studied, with experts from a range of different fields all agreeing that we are happier and more productive when surrounded by nature.
Biophilic design can be achieved in two ways with the facilitation of direct experiences and indirect experiences. To provide direct experiences with nature, designers will install real, tangible features into a space. They might allow natural light to stream in through large windows and skylights, work to ensure buildings have good ventilation throughout, install water fountains or aquariums and, of course, fill interior spaces with flowers, plants, trees and living walls. When working to incorporate indirect experiences with nature, designers may choose to decorate a space with images of the natural world or use organic materials such as wood and stone. As well, the incorporation of natural colours and shapes is widely used by interior designers when seeking to create biophilic spaces.
There were a host of different events relating to biophilic design planned for Clerkenwell Design Week 2022, including a series of hands-on workshops in which attendees could create their own Kokedama (the Japanese art of taking the root ball of a plant and suspending it in a shell of soft green moss). There was also talks dedicated to biophilic approaches to interior design, such as those hosted by OnOffice and Plant Designs.
The importance of making sustainable choices has never been more pressing than it is today, and this trend is sure to make itself known at CDW. Environmentally sustainable materials are those which don’t impact the planet in negative ways, be it through carbon emissions, recyclability, energy consumption or otherwise.
At this year’s CDW, we saw just about each and every exhibitor making an effort to promote their commitment to using sustainable materials in their products and services. It’s now incredibly difficult for brands in any sector to grow without formalizing their environmental stance and communicating the ways in which they work to support their customers’ efforts to live more sustainably.
The festival saw brands like Interface holding panel discussions about how interior designers can integrate sustainable materials and processes into spaces to create environments that help to protect the environment and encourage human wellbeing.
This trend is particularly relevant to the commercial sector, with designers and interior architects recognizing the need for modern workplaces to be flexible and able to respond instantly to the changing needs of businesses. Outside of CDW, the demand for flexible office interiors has increased exponentially, and we’re seeing new solutions being developed that allow employers to facilitate remote and hybrid patterns of work.
Furniture providers such as Haworth offered workshops on creating flexible, future-proof office interiors that are equipped to bend and flex with the changing demands of modern life.
Designing Social Spaces
After years of forced isolation from one another, the trend of social design is back with a vengeance. People everywhere are yearning for spaces in which they can meet people face-to-face meaning that interior designers and architects will be making sure they provide this at CDW.
The festival’s NextGen pavilion exemplified the trend of social design. The honeycomb style of the timber structure referenced ideas of teamwork, community and togetherness that are associated with beehives. It also served as a place where people visiting CDW could rest and socialize with one another whilst reflecting on the overarching themes of the event.
Adding to this, the festival’s main seminar venue – the Bandstand Pavilion – was designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration rather than one-way presentations. Instead of a traditional forward-facing seating arrangement that encouraged people to fall into an audience-speaker dichotomy, the space was arranged in a bandstand format. With the audience seated around all sides of the presenter, the venue encouraged people to engage in active discussions.
With sight being celebrated as perhaps the most important of our five senses, and with light being a fundamental prerequisite of seeing, the relationship between light and sight is clear. Designers all over the world are becoming more and more familiar with the importance of well-designed interior lighting schemes for ensuring that their buildings are as user-friendly as possible.
And, as the UK’s biggest independent design festival, it’s only natural for Clerkenwell Design Week’s organisers to have recognized this trend that plays such a crucial role in human-centric design. CDW dedicated an entire section of the festival to the lighting design sector called Light + Rising Stars. Held inside the atmospheric House of Detention (an underground space, formerly a Victorian prison, chosen strategically to maximize the effectiveness of the artificial light sources being showcased), Light + Rising Stars played host to some of the world’s leading lighting manufacturers and designers, a series of spectacular lighting installations and a selection of up-and-coming brands that are set to be the next big things within the lighting industry.
There were also talks from industry experts on lighting design best practices for residential and commercial interiors. London-based lighting designers Fritz Fryer hosted a panel discussion that explored the power of lighting and how it can be used strategically by interior designers to create spaces that excel in both form and function.
Designing for Workplace Wellbeing
Another sense-based design trend can be seen in global shifts towards designing for wellness. Following years of uncertainty and stress, people are asking for spaces that support their physical health and emotional wellbeing above all else. Commercial interior design specialists and fit-out contractors are being asked to create spaces that consider the well-being of their users throughout by integrating strategies and solutions that enable employees to work as effectively as possible.
We’re already seeing this trend manifest in the growing popularity of biophilic design mentioned earlier, as evidence shows conclusively that giving people direct access to nature improves their physical and mental wellbeing. It is also beginning to have a bigger influence on the layout of office environments and on the lighting systems specified.
At Clerkenwell Design Week, several different exhibitors provided workshops and panel discussions on creating office interiors that are conducive to happy, healthy workforces. Acoustic panel provider, BAUX, partnered with OnOffice to lead a talk on creating healthy workplaces whilst furniture designers from Teknion offered their insights on how to create people-first office spaces that use design to facilitate exceptional user experiences.
This year’s Clerkenwell Design Week was definitely a big one, being the first time the festival has been able to take place in three years! An excited audience of designers, specifiers, architects and manufacturers had an unmissable opportunity to reconnect with one another and build new strategic partnerships based on common values and commitments to delivering on the biggest design trends of the moment.
As will no doubt be the case at design exhibitions throughout the rest of 2022, the trends at CDW fell into one of three categories – sustainable design, social design and sensory design – with several sub-categories for more specialist niches. As well, there was a good amount of crossover between these trends, with each one merging into the next in different ways and at different times. Designing for wellness could be seen to blend with the trends of biophilic interiors and human-centric lighting, to give but one example.
Ultimately, the trends we saw at Clerkenwell Design Week exemplified a wider shift towards designers having more responsibilities that extend outside their job function itself. Whether it’s in relation to interior design schemes, products, materials or architecture, those working in creative industries will all be required to embrace their shared duties to protect the environment and safeguard the wellbeing of individuals by designing with sustainability and health at the fore.