Last night Chiara and I were invited to the open house and dinner for Wonderwater at Leila’s Shop. It was part of the whole London Design Festival celebrations. It’s not very often that my water industry communications work gets me out of an evening to a hip Shoreditch cafe; it was a welcome change..

The cafe itself is great, very stripped back and full of delicious simple food. The wonder water exhibit, which is on its third stop, since Beijing and Helsinki, helps people understand the concept of embedded water in their food.

Before the dinner, Chiara and I took in some of the exhibitions in the so-called ‘Shoreditch Design Triangle‘. I was worried that it all might be self-consciously haircut-focused, but they were great. Some of the exhibits were better than other, but there was something inspiring or inspired in each spot.

Some particular highlights

The Drawing Room
The illustrations based on everyday objects in The Drawing Room, at Luna & Curious (especially the BIC pen-inspired Star Wars motif and anglepoise lamp-rocket ship). That they were also providing pre-mixed gin and tonic, and cheese and crackers (and that the shop itself is full of tasteful, whimsical and thought-provoking designs) made this a winner. I’m even considering getting a print, and how often does that happen? Very infrequently.

The elevation of the everyday (like a pair of scissors or a Casio watch) into something that transcends its everyday usage, and adds new meaning is something I can’t get enough of.

The Gallery
I also loved the student art show at The Gallery on Redchurch Street. The show was called Variant, and featured work from newlygrads of Kingston University. They dreamt up, designed and executed objects from tools, furniture, DIY clothing and a bag that combined all of the aforementioned elements (a backpack that transformed into a portable chair).

I loved the practical application of all of the work here; each one was designed to carry out some specific purpose, and the range of personalities, ideas, perspectives, methods and values that were on display in this group show made it well worth a visit. They also had drinks, but we were on the move so didn’t partake.

We ended up at a reception that seemed to be a little off the grid. Was it part of the London Design Festival? I’m not sure. But they had snacks, and were showcasing ‘human-centred design’. The show itself consisted of post-it notes on big sheets of paper – so not the most visually appealing. But they were showing the process rather than a product.

The lack of visual flair was made up for by the snacks, and the idea of human-centred design. Having people involved all the way through the design process is one I like, because I like people, and I like the idea that whether you’re a designer or not (and I am certainly not), you can add value to the design process, and actively participate.

Afterwards we went back to Leila’s Cafe and had an excellent dinner of fresh homemade food (all of which had its water footprint calculated), and enjoyed conversation on water policy, design, water industry, fresh food, fishing, Italian tennis.

The main topic of course, was the design of the project itself, a collaboration between King’s College, Jane Withers, and Leila’s Shop. Eating and shopping at the what has been described as “Possibly one of the quaintest cafes in all of the world,” seems like a great idea. And, for the duration of London Design Week, the experience also gives people a window into the impact of their eating habits on local and global water use.