Cheltenham Design Festival

Author: Andy Hartwell

In April Cheltenham housed its very first Design Festival. Spread over three days the programme showcased influential figures from the design industry. Set with a Friday day ticket I prepared myself in a sponge like manner, to be inspired. Talks covered all design disciplines, with speakers from an impressive line up of creative backgrounds.

I’d signed up for four talks throughout the day (with a convenient 1 hour lunch break for afternoon tea!). Simon Kavanagh gave us an insight into The KaosPilots, a school positioned half way between a business and a design school. Their values are based on risk-taking and they pride their programme on being in the real world with an aim to bring out “positive social change through personal growth”. Students present their big idea and lecturers support them (no matter how crazy they are). Extraordinary achievements included the Baisikeli idea where a student shipped Danish scrapped bicycles to Tanzania where they’re repaired/rebuilt and sold, with all profit forming the foundation for the creation of a sustainable bicycle industry in Africa. He asked us what our big idea was, I couldn’t quite answer. But the prospect of one idea transforming somebody’s life was quite powerful and it reminded me that as a designer, we all have the potential to shape lives.

Image credit - Peter Stanners

Not as design led as I’d expected, it became clear the event was about all aspects of creativity. It delved into processes, responsibilities, and innovation, it made us question our roles and what we can do with them. Design is just a small part of that collaboration. I also learnt, that it was okay not to understand what’s going on all of the time! Nick Jankel, a life and leadership coach discussed chaos and where progress is concerned – it pays off to go deeper into the rabbit hole, for better results.

Each speaker had a different story, a different perspective but the one thing that remained consistent was the vision. Creative thinking affects our daily lives and also ensures the development of our future. From Simon Waterfall discussing the Sat Nav sucker marks on windscreens (that dramatically increased car crime in a matter of weeks), to Steve Haggarty explaining the cultural shifts in Chinese markets with youth culture and brands.

I think it was safe to say I left feeling exhausted, but truly inspired. It’s quite exciting to think that with perseverance, the right tools and platform – what one individual, or collaboration are capable of.