This week, Reykjavik has played host to DesignMarch – the design festival with a spring in its step. With 100 openings, exhibitions, talks, lectures and workshops putting Icelandic design on the map, we have been introduced to some great emerging talent from the local design scene.

A few days before heading to Iceland, having watched the film Finding Neverland, I wondered whether my trip to the land of fire and ice would see me brimming with a childlike wonder, adventuring around the island surrounded by beautiful things in a magical landscape. And pretty much all of that came true, with a little extra: meeting the people and the designers.

The festival is organised by Iceland Design Centre and this was its sixth edition, covering all aspects of design – architecture, fashion and textiles, product design, graphic design and illustration, jewellery, ceramics, and more. Amidst all the openings and exhibitions, it can be easy to become overwhelmed (yes, even in the relatively small city of Reykjavik), and so it is best to take time to reflect: to sit back and observe, and soak up the Icelandic culture and heritage that effortlessly flows through so many of the new objects that are being conjured up by today's designers.

Being inspired by nature is one thread that runs through the creations, as is the celebration of old crafts and traditions. This was seen not only in the products – and new collaborations – of the Austurland: Designs from Nowhere exhibition (see the recent article here) but in numerous other creative initiatives that are working with local knowledge and building platforms to connect through community-based design practices (Make by Þorpið, Designers & Forests).

Sharing the stories, the energy and the skills, using design as a tool for regional development, and enhancing it with an international design perspective – this all certainly fitted in with the 'dealing with reality' theme of the DesignTalks, the opening event of the festival. The importance of strategies and collaborations when building a creative business was highlighted and yet, perhaps the curator and co-chair of the day Hlin Helga summed it up best (in our Q&A here): 'For me, it's about the chemistry of the people collaborating, but most importantly their tacit knowledge.' Indeed: the Icelandic design community has the people, they have the chemistry (and boundless hospitality!) and they have shared the knowledge. Now let's get on with collaborating!


One major highlight for me was getting to see the products and meeting the designers for those projects we have previously shared (by Hafsteinn JúlíussonÞórunn ÁrnadóttirIngimar Einarsson and the Rendez-Wood sudents from Iceland Academy of the Arts), as well as being inspired by another bunch of great designers. Here is an initial selection of some of the (many) highlights:

-Postulína's Jökla ('glacial') porcelain tableware is a new handmade collection inspired by Iceland's magical and versatile glaciers. The products were exhibited matched alongside the otherworldy landscapes of photographer Vigfús Birgisson.

-Staka is a collection also inspired by the country's harsh and magnificent landscape. Product designer María Kristín Jónsdóttir was inspired by the Icelandic Sagas and influenced by Viking Age materials and craftsmanship to create a new line of accessories.

-Dögg Guðmundsdóttir's designs are influenced by Icelandic national treasures, bringing together the diversity of the Icelandic landscape and traditional craftsmanship in an innovative way. Her exhibition Kosmos was on show at the Iceland Museum of Design and Applied Arts.

-Studiobility has established a new platform  – Selected by Bility – to showcase new designers: Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson’s copper lampshade (inspired by a newspaper article from 1968 about the Katla volcanic eruption) caught our eye; the other products by Thorleifur Gunnar Gíslason and Elín Bríta Sigvaldadóttir are worth checking out too.

-The ShopShow travelling exhibition, curated by designer Petra Lilja, had originated in Sweden and journeyed to a location just outside central Reykjavik. A multitude of contemporary designs highlighted the interplay of production and consumerism with an emphasis on the product’s traceability.

-Fourteen graphic designers displayed their own take on a poster for the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which will be performed as a play in Reykjavik City Theatre this year. The poster by Studio Erla & Jonas took us back to our school days with its pencil sketch on graph paper.

-At the magnificent location of Harpa, there was an exhibition of new furniture designs. Icelandic-based designer Paolo Gianfrancesco had his modular TÍU couch on display, for which he found inspiration for the design in the simplicity of design and colour schemes from the 1950s and 1960s.

Images courtesy of Iceland Design Centre.