Virtual Design Festival launch: Dezeen curates new online show to celebrate the best from designers around the world

April is for design lovers — in normal times.

It brings Milan Design Week, with up to 400 events, the anchor being the huge Salone del Mobile furniture fair.

But that’s corona-cancelled, along with the entire spring/summer circuit of global design and craft trade fairs, expos, conferences, biennales and festivals.

“The design world has come to a juddering halt,” says Marcus Fairs of north London, founding editor of the web design platform, Dezeen. But he is launching the international Virtual Design Festival — the VDF — in London today.

It’s free to view on and has content for everyone from professional architects, designers, and makers to all individuals interested in design.

“We’re all learning to adapt by working from home and discovering how technology can bring people together via the internet,” adds Fairs.

He is in his digital element. Launched in 2006 by Fairs, pioneered online coverage of architecture and design news and comment.

It now gets more than three million visitors per month, has 500,000 newsletter subscribers, a social media audience of five million-plus and has won more than 40 major awards for innovation and editorial quality.


Behind the scenes: weaver Christabel Balfour is among designers showcasing their work on (Deborah Panes)

So what can we expect at VDF?

The programme will evolve and expand, thanks to the immediacy and flexibility of online content.

New York curator Beatrice Galilee, originally from London, will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, when architects and designers will share ideas for a circular economy, sustainable architecture and reduction in waste. Eco-issues are an ongoing theme.

A museum in Melbourne will provide previously unseen videos of lectures by famous designers.

An architecture collective in New Delhi has concepts for feeding cities in India post-pandemic. Young designers can launch their products and there will be virtual degree shows for students.

“London is home to an astonishing number of world-class architects and designers,” adds Fairs. And they have stepped up with content for VDF.

Tom Dixon, renowned for furniture, lighting and interiors, based in his offices-cum-shop in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, has had to cancel shows in Frankfurt, Milan, New York, Shanghai and Copenhagen.

“Circumstances now are tragic, complex and tough,” says Dixon. “How will we manufacture, distribute and communicate in such a complex and ever-shifting landscape?”

VDF will show Dixon’s new CODE LED lighting track — “very flat, extremely bright, and super-versatile”.

Star designer Ron Arad had a show scheduled in Los Angeles to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse. He’s moved this to VDF, including a limited-edition chair made of newspaper headlines to mark Brexit on January 31.


See London furniture designer and upcycler Yinka Ilori at the Virtual Design Festival

“It was to mark our notion of the UK’s most life-changing moment… little did we know what would be happening now,” says Arad.

Other Londoners contributing videos are architect Amanda Levete, furniture designer Yinka Ilori, fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic, London stage and digital designer Es Devlin, architect/designer Dara Huang and interior designer Kelly Hoppen.

More digital diary dates

London Craft Week was set for April 27 to May 3.

A “virtual programme” on those dates at will have masterclasses, demos, product launches and studio and workshop tours.

Meet David Linley, peek into Aiveen Daly’s upholstery workshop, and wonder at the looms in weaver Christabel Balfour’s east London workshop. New London Craft Week dates are Sept 30 to Oct 8.


Made to order: Chevron Chair by Aiveen Daly ( Visit her workshop at

Craft in Focus had planned its 20th anniversary show at the end of the month at RHS Garden Wisley.

But has an interactive map of the fair and its marquees, linking to the websites, social media, and in many cases videos of 200 craftspeople, organised by founder-director Rob Chapman, “online until our next event in 2021”.

A similar website is coming soon for the July show Celebrating Ceramics (

Ceramic Art London was cancelled last month, but all the exhibitors are on (hashtag #virtualCAL)


Clerkenwell Design Week, scheduled for next month, is now planned for July 14 to 16.

Meanwhile creatives are collaborating throughout the pandemic on (#DesignTogether), using new virtual software for tours of design showrooms.

Catherine Dunne and Rebecca Hunter of SoLo Craft Fairs have had to cancel three spring events in Dulwich and Greenwich.

But their innovative virtual craft market is now on Instagram stories @solocraft fair every Saturday from noon to 2pm. And hundreds of makers are joining from all over the world to sell their wares (

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