Update on March 11, 2020: In light of recent developments of the COVID-19 virus, the organizers of DesignMarch have decided to move the festival to late June 2020.
At the annual DesignMarch festival, March 25–29, Reykjavík will be bursting with color and curious events, presenting the latest in Icelandic design.
For five days in March, Reykjavík celebrates all things design, from fashion to architecture, jewelry to product design—just about anything that’s creative and innovative.
Now for its 12th year running, DesignMarch is a fixed event on the city’s event calendar—and one of its six official festivals. The 2020 edition is scheduled March 25–29.
“DesignMarch is the main promotional event for Icelandic design. It’s a unique opportunity to meet the locals and experience the creative juices of Iceland,” says Álfrún Pálsdóttir, head of PR and Communication for DesignMarch.
The festival was first held in 2009, during the recession. “When there’s a downturn, we tend to take an inward look, causing an upswing in the creative industries,” explains Álfrún. “The festival survived and has come a long way; it has grown and evolved along with the Icelandic design community.”
Approximately 40,000 people attend the roughly 100 events every year. “The opening party hosts around 1,500 guests and everybody is welcome,” states Álfrún. “The festival is in a way a living, breathing organism. That’s what makes it so unique. No one experiences it the same way.”
While the official program runs for five days, design events are scheduled through the entire month of March. “It’s gradually becoming recognized how valuable the design way of thinking is—it’s more than just making products,” opines Álfrún. She elaborates that design is an important force in counteracting the current climate crisis; sustainability is highlighted in many of the designs at this year’s festival.
One of the festival’s key events is DesignTalks, an international conference held at Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre on March 26. This year entitled “New World – New Ways,” the conference’s established speakers seek to inspire fellow designers to help tackle the colossal global challenges ahead.
“Imagination is important today. The global situation demands that we face it and accept our responsibility; it demands immediate actions and reform but not least new vision for the future; we’ve got to keep paving the way. That’s what the theme is referring to,” explains Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir, curator of DesignTalks since 2015.
Alongside Hlín Helga, founder and editor-in-chief of FRAME magazine and director of Frame Publishers Robert Thiemann will moderate this year’s DesignTalks. He has consulted and lectured for companies such as Chanel, Kering, Nespresso and Vitra, and sits regularly on juries for design competitions all over the world.
The festival’s international element is important to the Icelandic design scene. “It makes the festival stretch beyond the borders of Iceland and create a conversation of design,” states Álfrún.
From the beginning, official institutions and private parties have collaborated on DesignMarch, which is produced by Iceland Design Center with the support of the City of Reykjavík, Arion Bank and Promote Iceland. It reflects all design sectors: fashion design, architecture, furniture and interior design, graphic design, product and experience design, innovative and digital design.
The festival calls for optimism and a new way of thinking. There are events like Design Diplomacy, open to everyone, where foreign ambassadors invite designers from their home countries to pair with Icelandic creatives over a common theme. They organize a series of intimate discussions at their residences, offering guests to meet the designers.
At DesignMarch, local designers are paired with local and international design producers, retailers, galleries and provided with a setting for discovering possible mutual interests.
For more information about the program of the 2020 edition, visit designmarch.is
Text by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir
This article first appeared in the Icelandair Stopover inflight magazine, winter 2020.