April 2015 art and design trends: draw inspiration from warm colours and lighting – and projects for a better world

Be inspired by designers taking on SAD, surreal house collages, Paul Smith’s take on the Land Rover Defender, a brightly coloured camoflagued ferry and Ikea’s flat-pack refugee shelter.


Perhaps it’s because winter seems to have dragged on particularly long this year, but there have been several projects this month that use design to improve well-being, especially in relation to Seasonal Effective Disorder.

Created by Calm & Collected, S.A.D. is a loud and proud, psychedelic publication designed to replenish stores of colour and fun lost over the winter months.

Working with a host of designers and artists, C&C asked them to research and respond to the condition, which the NHS estimates affects around two million people in the UK. The result is bright, playful risograph book-come-artwork that can’t help bring a smile to your face.

In the world of product design, graduate Eléonore Delisse from the Design Academy Eindhoven has taken a more practical approach to S.A.D. by designing a lamp that rotates to display different colours at different times of the day.

The thinking behind the beautiful piece is that different wavelengths of light (produced by coloured films) simulate the changing hue of natural light and better regulate the body’s circadian rhythm – a great example of how problem solving around scientific research could inspire your projects.


The lamp also picks up on a materials trend that’s emerging this month: iridescence. At SXSW festival (which has morphed from its roots as Austin’s showcase of emerging musicians to a city-wide cultural take-over), SOFTlab collaborated with BBDO to develop a pavilion for US manufacturing company 3M, made from the latter’s modular architectural products.

This impressive temporary structure used 3M’s dichronic film, which creates highly-saturated colours when hit by the light – not unlike Delisse’s lamp. Check out Red Bull’s latest New York office by architects INABA to see an example of this kind of product being used in a permanent space.

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In Milan, architects and designers are currently ramping up for May’s Milan Expo 2015, a triennial celebration of architecture, technology and innovation, only in its second year after Expo 2012. Here you can also see iridescent materials playing a big part in the pavilions being built – check out architect Daniel Libeskind snake-like design for Chinese company Vanke. Responding to the Expo’s theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, the pavilion will be arranged in what Vanke has called a ‘virtual forest’ and will be filled with more than 300 multimedia screens in an installation that will examine the role of the dinner table in Chinese communities.

Outside, the scale-like shimmer has been achieved by cladding the amorphous shape in a innovative red, metallic tile that Libeskind collaborated with manufacturer Casalgrande Padana to create. Whether you’re working on sets, exhibitions or physical spaces, take note of this fun iridescence trend, and like Libeskind and SOFTlab, don’t be afraid to approach materials companies for support with your projects, as many are often be keen to work with designers as a way of promoting their products to a more creative and imaginative audience.


Closer to home, several designers have been experimenting with interrupting and reworking traditional buildings, with awe-inspiring, even magical, effects.

For an excellent example, take a look at Raw EdgesMake Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth installation that has taken over the 19th Century Sculpture Gallery at the Derbyshire stately home.


The London-based studio has disrupted the space by fitting it with a grid-like floor, made from jigsawed pieces of dye-soaked wood.

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At the most colourful areas, furniture pieces (made from the same method) emerge from the floor, like organic growths, and the bright-hued trail leads visitors to sit and engage – something not usually allowed with museum pieces.


If you’re looking for a way to incorporate this idea of disruption into two-dimensional projects, take a look at Matthias Jung’s Surreal House series.

Jung has used a collage of architectural elements – from stone-built cottages to continental apartments and traditional timber-framed buildings – to develop skyscrapers, sprawling settlements and surreal floating kingdoms.


These images operate in an intriguing hinterland between the familiar and unfamiliar, and because of that force the viewer to linger that extra bit longer.

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Both projects show the power of playing with something traditional (and seemingly staid) and making it feel fresh and somewhat magical – something key whatever projects you’ve got coming up.


Just as Raw Edges’ project at Chatsworth brought colour to a formerly austere (and neutral) space, there are several new projects set to launch in April that inject colour into one of the most conservative fields of design: transport.

Fashion designer Paul Smith is the king of using hints of carefully chosen hues to bring quirk and a sense of rebellion to conventional items, you only need to look as the linings of his suits to see this principle at work. Smith created a special one-of edition of Land Rover’s Defender model  - which will cease production in December 2015 - choosing a palette of 27 colours for the new vehicle.


This palette was carefully researched from shades used by the army, navy and airforce - to which Land Rover is strongly linked - as well as referencing colours inspired by the countryside.

Unlike with type, shape, and pattern, researching colour can be an overlooked element in design projects; investigating the archive of a brand you’re working with could yield exciting results when it comes to colour.

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Getting from A to B in Liverpool will get a lot more exciting come next month, as Sir Peter Blake has designed a new Mersey Ferry called Everybody Razzle Dazzle. Commissioned by the team behind the Liverpool Bienniale, its outlandish pattern is inspired by the dazzle camouflage, a technique used in in military vehicles, and invented by artist Norman Wilkinson, to make it difficult for the enemy to lock target.

Just looking at the bright surface patterns will no doubt cheer commuters and tourists alike. The project works as a pertinent reminder that visual art and design isn’t just for galleries or clients, you can have a impact on really mundane, everyday experiences (like commuting) by intervening in the environment.


Designers interested in making a difference to the world with their craft should take a look at a couple of projects that launched this month. Raising awareness is an important way of causing change, take a look at this project by Icelandic designers Thorunn Arnadottir and Dagný Bjarnadóttir, ceramicist Kristbjörg Guðmundsdóttir and Finnish graphic designer Milja Korpela.


In an attempt to highlight the hundreds of tonnes of harmful rubbish washed up on Iceland’s coastline due to the fishing industry, the group created a series of products formed from marine waste. From macabre skipping ropes to quite beautiful mobiles, the exhibition, called 1200 Tonnes, aims to highlight the work of volunteer charity Blái Herinn (The Blue Army), which collects rubbish from the coast of the country.

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For Spanish print studio Estudio Durero, thinking about access was an integral part of its new project, which saw them develop a special type of printing technique that allows blind people to experience famous artworks. Called Didú, the technique creates highly detailed 3D versions of paintings, by selecting the volumes and textures integral to an image – a process that take a whopping 40 hours, then those areas are printed with a special ink.

A chemical dip then adds volume to those areas of ink and then the original colours of the painting are printed over the top. An exhibition at Madrid’s Prado are the first to exhibit this technique in an exhibiting that lets blind and sighted people touch adapted artworks from their collection.


You may have caught this story when it was in the planning stages, but this month will also see the official launch of Ikea’s Better Shelter project. This is an initiative to make 10,000 flat-pack temporary shelters and distribute them through the United Nations Refugee Agency to house people that have been made refugees by natural disasters or conflict.

Designed by Ikea’s in-house team the shed-like structures have been made from lightweight polymer panels that have been laminated with thermal insulation and clip on to a steel frame – a design that Ikea’s predicts will have a lifespan of three years. Take this month to think about social responsibility and how you can use your strengths (for Ikea, their knowledge of flat-pack) and those of your clients (big or small) to do good.