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Designs that make you smile

Written by Anna Castleton
Published date 23 September 2016

Designs to make you smile, The Smile, Alison Brooks, Chelsea College of Arts
Inspired by Chelsea College of Arts’s headline-grabbing installation The Smile, we asked UAL’s design community which designs make them smile (and which look like they’re smiling back)…
Designs that make you smile Swiss Army Explorer Knife

The design that makes me smile every time I use it is the multi-function Swiss Army Explorer knife precisly because it is compact, useful, ingenius and ‘comforting’ to hold.”
Michael Vale, Wimbledon College of Arts

Designs to make you smile airstream

The design that looks like it is smiling at you is the 1930’s Airstream Trailer designed by Hawley Bowlus.”
Michael Vale, Wimbledon College of Arts

Designs that make you smile, Susan Dray, Miss Piggy Hat, Piers Atkinson SS17

The ‘Little Miss Piggy Hat’ from the Piers Atkinson SS17 collection. I smiled so much that I had to draw it! ”

Susan Dray, London College of Fashion

Designs that make you smile Rose Thomas Frost Smile Necklace
Designs that make you smile cat tea towel holder

The Cloth Cat Bum End Tea Towel Holders and Rose Thomas ’Smile‘ necklaces make me smile :-)”

Ben Stopher, London College of Communication

Designs that make you smile, Orla Lawn, Central Saint Martins

Of the Brain Waves exhibits the one that makes me smile is Orla Lawn’s Depth of Light, just for the sheer visual and sensual pleasure. It makes me feel calm and that is a precious thing in the hectic schedule of LDF.”

Dr Ulrike Oberlack, Central Saint Martins

Designs to make you smile, Photosympathise, Freya Morgan, Central Saint Martins

Freya Morgan’s Photosympathize might not look like it’s smiling, but its tongue in cheek approach makes me smile.”

Dr Ulrike Oberlack, Central Saint Martins

Designs that make you smile, Silver cube. Photo Lucie Kroenig

Design to make you smile, Inflatable cobblestone, action of Eclectic Electric Collective in cooperation with Enmedio collective during the General Strike in Barcelona 2012. © Oriana Eliçabe/


A design that makes me smile is the giant floating silver cube that appears at mass gatherings. Requiring consensus and collaboration to build, these cubes are neither commodity nor instrument, but the highly public outcome of a socially-engaged design process. Too big for one person to hold, these playfully ‘disobedient objects’ bounce from person to person in the crowd, or lift off and take to the air, signalling a will to transcend the oppositions that lead to stalemate or conflict.

I know the cubes best from the global movement to divest from fossil fuels, which is going from strength to strength*, as people from different positions recognise their common cause in moving towards a post-carbon society…”

David Cross, Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon Colleges of Art


Ettore Sottsass The Planet as Festival 1972 – designs of Ettore Sottsass can only make you grin. But aside from the humorous, cartoon like perspective of his work this makes you smile with the vision of liberation and freedom. It’s a radical picture, a land where there is no architecture left to design, humans are free from work and social conditioning. All that is left is for designers to imagine an architecture designed by “others” – and it proposes that reinvention can only come when there is nothing left to design… Post-Brexit we could all do with design making a radical impact on the world… Design needs to be more political. London needs to be brave again. We could all learn from the planet as a festival…”

Laura Bell, London College of Fashion

Designs to make you smile, i-D magazine cover, August 1985, Let's Dance issue

My pick would be almost any page of Alan Fletcher’s the Art of Looking Sideways or, if it has to be one single thing then I would say the i-D magazine logo as seen on the magazine’s cover since 1980. My favourite is probably issue number 28 Let’s Dance published August 1985, just before I left home for Art college to study graphic design; my enjoyment of the design is therefore based largely nostalgia for a time in my life when when I was on the brink of an exciting adventure fuelled by a belief that becoming a designer had no limits and the Can-do/do-it-yourself attitude of the magazine and people featured in it was raw, fresh and inspiring. The logo hasn’t changed since inception but the publishers’ ability to maintain the device of the cover image reflecting it with the model’s wink and a smile I think demonstrates how the logo’s apparent simplicity is both clever and timeless. I rarely read the magzine these days but whenever I see it on the shelves I can connect immediately with my younger self and smile.”

Amanda Jenkins, Camberwell College of Arts

The last word goes to London Design Festival Director, and UAL Governor, Ben Evans:

I want design to be a pleasurable experience and when it is I smile. This normally happens every day. Not surprising really given we all have hundreds if not thousands of daily design experiences. There must be one that makes you smile.”
Ben Evans, UAL and London Design Festival

Find out more about UAL at London Design Festival

See our visual diary of highlights plus peek behind the scenes on Instagram

Watch 6 second tours on Vine

See the full London Design Festival programme for 2016 on the LDF website