Kuala Lumpur Design Week

I’ve just got back from Kuala Lumpur Design Week, a new-ish event aiming to give Malaysian designers a shot in the arm and exposure to an international array of speakers

Crouching Digital Origami Tigers by LAVA, installed in KL city centre for Design Week

I’ve just got back from Kuala Lumpur Design Week, a new-ish event aiming to give Malaysian designers a shot in the arm and exposure to an international array of speakers

Not to be cynical but almost every city seems to be aiming to be a ‘creative hub’ or ‘world leader in design’ these days. You can see the attraction for politicians – the ‘creative industries’ sound exciting and modern and forward thinking for administrators eager to drag their countries into a bright, shiny future that is not based on cheap labour or digging things out of the ground.

Kuala Lumpur is another city aiming toward the creative sector and hoping that its second Design Week will kickstart its indigenous creative community. The event brought together speakers from Europe and Japan plus a range of exhibitions from local and foreign artists and designers as well as Malaysian colleges.

I was a speaker at the conference which featured some wonderful presentations from the Japanese contingent including, very much from the ‘bonkers’ school of Japanese design, Fantasista Utamaro who presented dressed like this (also his wedding outfit)

and whose work includes this video

And from the ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ school of Japanese design, we had Hideki Inaba

While across town Haroshi was showing his beautiful works created from skateboard decks

Among other notable speakers were the Iranian designer (now working in The Netherlands) Reza Abedini (below) who we profiled in a previous issue of CR.

Niko Stumpo (see next to Abedini above) who many will know from his pioneering Abnormal Behaviour Child website from the late 90s/early noughties. After a period at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, Stumpo now runs a studio in the city, Hanazuki, that also has a shop, selling design goodies including his own work – like the rather charming Couch Buddies, designed to give lonely TV watchers something to cuddle

And from Ireland, via Berlin, it was great to see David O’Reilly once again, the short filmmaker who featured in our Creative Futures young talent event back in 2008. Among other things, O’Reilly showed his hilarious Octocat series

And short film Please Say Something

And from the UK, Rian Hughes (whose Iron Man cover is shown below)

and, by way of LA, 3D typography sepcialist Andrew Byrom, whose work has appeared in CR several times recently

The three-day conference was somewhat sparsely attended – perhaps it was the lack of a ‘star name’ (Sagmeister came last year) or perhaps, as I heard several times, that local designers found the ticket price too high. This latter point is a constant refrain at events around the world. Unfortunately, such festivals are hugely expensive to put on – something that is not always appreciated. Without bringing in overseas stars, audiences won’t come, but flights and hotels cost money. It’s a real dilemma (which Rick Poynor explored for us here) – the people most likely to attend are young designers and students, but they are the least able to pay. Most design conferences break even at best, even those with major government support.

Personally, I really enjoyed KL’s mix of speakers – no huge stars but lots of innovative work and fresh points of view. Hopefully next year more local designers will be able to attend to make this event the success that its fantastic organisers (thank you all for your hospitality) deserve.

More on Kuala Lumpur Design Week here

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