Utopia by Design

7 - 27 September 2016

Somerset House

The theme of the first edition of the London Design Biennale was 'Utopia by Design', which celebrated the 500th anniversary of the publication of Sir Thomas More’s classic, Utopia.

Director of the 2016 Biennale, Dr Christopher Turner, explained how the centrality of the theme was fundamental to establishing a strong coherence and curated unity between all participating countries and territories. Design teams were encouraged to create installations that interrogated the history of the utopian idea, and engaged with some of the fundamental issues facing humanity.

Their responses celebrated cultural diversity and showed design's innate power to strike up and inform debate, but also as a catalyst: provoking real change by suggesting inspiring or cautionary futures. Together these visions formed a laboratory of ambitious ideas that might contribute to making the world a better place. And what other objective is there to good design?

London Design biennale 2016 was held in partnership with Jaguar and Somerset House.



The inaugural London Design Biennale awarded four Medals to its participating countries and territories. The International Jury awarded Lebanon the London Design Biennale Medal 2016, Russia the Utopia Medal and Switzerland the Jaguar Innovation Medal. Mexico, Chile and Japan were also commended for the entries. Albania was awarded the Public Medal, voted by the visitors.

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Opening ceremony on 8th September 2016 when the International Jury made up of some of the world’s leading creative experts awarded medals to Lebanon, Russia and Switzerland. Photo by Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Lebanon - ‘Mezzing In Lebanon’ was awarded the London Design Biennale Medal 2016 for the most exceptional design contribution. Photo by Ed Reeve

Russia - 'Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design' was awarded the Utopia Medal commending the most inspiring interpretation of the Biennale’s 2016 theme Utopia by Design. Photo by Ed Reeve

Switzerland - ‘In-between: The Utopia of the Neutral’ was awarded the Jaguar Innovation Medal, reflecting innovations vital importance in design. Photo by Ed Reeve

Albania - ‘Bliss’ was awarded the Public Medal, voted by the visitors to the exhibition as their favourite amongst the 37 international installations on display. Photo by Ed Reeve

The Medals were designed by Drummond Masterton, Head of Sustainable Product Design at Falmouth University, and created using advanced digital printing and milling technologies. Photo by Bradley Lloyd Barnes

Artistic Director

Dr. Christopher Turner, is Keeper of Design, Architecture and Digital at the V&A and the former editor of Icon and Modern Painters. 

Turner was Founding Director of London Design Biennale in 2016 and subsequently the Artistic Director of the London Design Biennale in 2018.

Turner studied anthropology, archaeology art history at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD from the University of London. He is an editor of Cabinet magazine and has curated exhibitions at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Manifesta 7: the European Biennial of Contemporary Art and the Arnolfini Gallery, and writes for the London Review of Books, The Guardian, Apollo and Sunday Telegraph.


Pentagram designed the visual identity, signage and materials for the inaugural edition of the Biennale.

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The approach to the identity was informed by Pentagram’s 15 year relationship with London Design Festival. Both the Festival and Biennale aim to widen public awareness of the importance and universal relevance of design in contemporary life and culture, and require clear, bold and recognisable identities which appeal to designers and non-designers alike.

The London Design Biennale’s identity is a bookend for its content. The expanding and contracting logo is a device for entries to sit within, acting as a portal for the installations to take centre stage. The classic colour combination of orange and black is used to make the event and its material highly visible.