The Design Museum | Kensington Museum
They won’t all be your type.
Although if you’re into design of any sort, or want to get into design, or just enjoy looking at beautiful things, London’s Design Museum most probably will be.
It was specifically forged with the aim of inspiring people to think and feel more passionately about design, and to shine a light on the designer’s role at the forefront of social, technological and environmental change.
Initially it was housed in a smaller building in Shad Thames, but in 2008 it moved to a Grade II listed, 1960s-style sweeping beauty in Kensington (pictured above) that’s really worth a visit in and of itself. It also offers three times the space, allowing for the Design Museum’s first permanent exhibition, as well as more temporary shows.
Entry to the permanent exhibition is free, offering up nearly 1,000 items of 20th and 21st century design, hoping to highlight the role of the designer, the maker, and the user. Temporary collections however are usually ticketed, exploring everything from fashion, architecture, and furniture design, to graphic design; product design; transport; and digital design.
Past temporary exhibitions include Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18 which explored the role of graphic design including memes, posters, and protest placards in modern day politics; California: Designing Freedom which looked at how California and places like Silicon Valley came to have such a powerful influence over modern design; and Fear and Love which explored how design is connected to urgent, underlying societal issues such as sexuality, sentient robots (robots with machine consciousness) and sustainability within fashion.
Current temporary exhibitions include the much-anticipated Stanley Kubrick exhibition, packed with sketches, scripts, costumes, set models, video clips and artefacts surrounding the cult director’s films, from The Shining to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also showing is David Adjaye: Making Memory which looks at the work of British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE and ask how buildings change our perception of events, and whether or not buildings, rather than words, can be used to tell stories.
As well as exhibitions, London Design Museum also programme a number of pretty cool talks with a range of working designers, as well as classes on making everything from tiles to candles and textiles. And on Friday nights they have Friday Night Sketch, where a professional designer or illustrator sets a sketching task based on something currently in one of the exhibitions, then attendees are welcome to explore the museum and sketch anything they find inspiring, before sharing their work at the end.
In case you get peckish, there’s a cafe, as well as a top floor restaurant – the Design Museum Kitchen – which serves brunch and lunch, all week long. They have teas, coffees, fresh cakes, and scones with jam and cream, as well as a seasonal menu of hot, savoury dishes, all of which you can enjoy whilst looking out over a penthouse view of Hyde Park.
NOTE: Design Museum is open every day (excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from 10am-6pm (last entry 5pm). It’s also open late on the first Friday of every month, until 8pm. It’s free to enter, although the temporary exhibitions are ticketed. You can find out more information, or book tickets, on their website here.
Big museum fan? Take a look at our Best Museums In London guide.