Colourful Connections in Iceland at DesignMarch

Vibrant connections resonated across Reykjavik for this year's edition of DesignMarch, including the sounds of the Infinite String Quartet (pictured).

DesignMarch is an annual celebration of design that takes place across the city of Reykjavik for 5 days (and nights). The event presents a wealth of Icelandic creative talents, as well as showcasing the work of a number of other nationalities.

From architectural installations and book launches to interactive sessions and full-on sensorial experiences, exhibitions take place everywhere and anywhere: galleries, museums, bars, cafes, shops – even in a swimming pool (in Sundhöllin, the city’s oldest swimming hall). Ever since 2009, the festival has been curated in such a manner that visitors can literally submerge themselves in the local design scene, in an open invitation to gain insight into this immensely creative community.

The Icelandic experience is one of extremes – of scale (in the landscape) and of force (in the weather), and this year's DesignMarch certainly had its fair share of storms. Yet, it wasn't the hurricane-forces winds that blew us away. It was the work on show, the people, the openness and the welcoming nature of everyone involved. Where to start with a summary of happenings? I've opted initially for some of the vibrant hues that popped out and caught the attention of many-a-visitor. This follows-on from the kaleidoscopic patterns that were the focus of our preview article for DesignMarch last week (see here), so let's continue on that colourful theme.


All these highlighted projects have a chromatic connection with some other common threads also making an appearance, such as music, craft and links to nature:

-Overlap: This event in Sundhöllin was one of the aforementioned full-on sensory experiences, which included product design (the technological innovation of Float by Unnur Valdis), fashion design (swimming costumes by Eyglo), vibrant visuals (by Siggi Eggertsson) and an atmospheric soundtrack (by Futuregrapher) all combining to create a visual journey of playful weightlessness.

-Anita Hirlekar: Having gained her MA at Central Saint Martins in London, the Icelandic textile and fashion designer presented her collection of handmade garments, embroidered with various threads in a style of clashing colours and textures. Combining to create an irregular motif, the strong signature of the final collection highlights the designer’s emphasis on craft, colour and innovative fabrications.

-Leave Behind: This project is a collaboration between Ágústa Sveinsdóttir and graphic designer Krista Hall utilising imprinting as a design tool. The duo experimented with different ways of producing marks on a surface by using pressure, resulting in kaleidoscopic patterns that were quickly developed with a digital aesthetic. Thanks to a cooperation with Textile Printing Iceland (the company of textile designer Gudrun Eysteinsdóttur, Margret Helga Skúladóttur and Jón Örn Arnarson), the designs were tansformed into chromatic digital prints on natural materials.

-Glazed Dialog: A new textile range by Reykjavik designer Hanna Dis Whitehead was presented during DesignMarch that was decorated with colourful speckles. This follows in the style of the coloured glazes from her ceramics collections, with the patterns adorning various homeware items. The exhibition Glazed Dialog combined craftsmanship with digital work and was intended to inspire the user to evaluate the purpose of such items and how to use them and, in effect, have a sort of a dialogue with them.

-Petit Volcans: The Icelandic/French design team of the IIIF Collective (designers Agla Stefánsdóttir, Sigrún Halla Unnarsdóttir and Thibaut Allgayer) worked with the CIAV in Meisenthal, France to craft a glass collection inspired by the fierce natural phenomenon common in Iceland, volcanos. The work imitates nature and has resulted in a colourful collection bursting with vibrancy. Molten glass, marble paint effects and textile patterns are all incorporated into the products on show: bowls, vases, posters and blankets (launch event music was provided by FM Belfast DJs).

-Poison in a Bottle: Tanja Levý is a graduate of Reykjavik School of Visual Arts and her first fashion collection includes a range of prints designed around the story of a flatfish that is caught in an oil spill at sea, and how it adapts to its environment and goes into disguise. The opalescent hues in her pieces create intricate patterns, realised through both silk-screen and digital printing. The designs were presented as part of a multimedia installation for which Levý collaborated with graphic designer Jóna Berglind and sound designer Kári Einarsson (launch event music was provided by dj. flugvél og geimskip, pictured).

-Infinite String Quartet: featuring spherical blobs of colour that wobble and resonate with the sound vibrations, this interactive music interface is the brainchild of composer Úlfur Eldjárn, graphic designer Siggi Odds and programmer Halldór Eldjárn. It features the looping and layering of sounds of an actual string quartet and it is an addictive experience that allows the user to enter a new world and become a musician in that moment. Get a taster of this project in the teaser video below, and try it for yourself here.

Watch this space for more reports from the festival that link to colour, as well as the cross-overs, collaborations and crafts that were witnessed during the course of the event. DesignMarch is organised by Iceland Design Centre and you can check out the organisation’s blog for updates, photos and videos from the festival.

Photos courtesy of Iceland Design Centre.


At Frame Publishers, we are currently in a bit of an excited frenzy about colour – from the latest issue of the magazine with its colour focus (see Frame #103) to the final exhibition at Frame store (see here) which has a vibrant theme and is available for viewing until the end of the month (details).

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