Six Cities Design Festival

  • The List
  • 8 May 2007

Made in Scotland

We don’t often stop to consider the impact design has on every aspect of our lives. This month, a Scotland-wide festival aims to encourage us to do just that. The Six Cities Design Festival,, features established and up-and-coming local and international designers and comprises over 250 events, exhibitions, debates and public interventions in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling. Kirstin Innes and Henry Northmore speak to some of the home-grown designers involved.


The Scottish Show

One of the highlights of Six Cities, the Scottish Show 07 features 34 of the most innovative home-grown designers working today. Spread over all four floors of the Lighthouse, it consists of installations, exhibitions, workshops and floor shows.

Alongside established names like Timorous Beasties and Glasgow fashion house Olanic, there is a strong strand of emergent talent. Twenty-five-year-old Kirsteen Stewart is a textile designer who specialises in clothing and accessories. Having studied in Northumbria and worked for a New York fashion house, she returned to her native Orkney to start her own business. Her work is bold and graphic, often using bright neon colours on black. Stewart maintains that there’s a strong Scottish element to her work.

‘Scottish designers look for worldwide inspiration, obviously, but I think we’re also inspired - have to be - by the way we live,’ she says. ‘I might not use the landscape in typical ways, but I think there’s a functionality to my work, an element of practicality.’

The Orcadian landscape infiltrates her work, through bird-prints on her textiles or echoes of shells or fossils in her jewellery. Clearly a profound love for her home underpins everything she does, which might explain why she’s chosen to locate her business in Orkney rather than the more obvious Glasgow or London. ‘One of the best things about Scotland is that there’s such a strong network of support here. It means loads for me to be involved in the Scottish Show. I’ve designed a graphic wall as installation to accompany a fashion runway show I’m doing - I want to show the process, how my images make it onto the clothes.’

Kirsteen Stewart’s designs can be bought at The Scottish Show runs at the Lighthouse from Thu 17 May-Sun 12 Aug.


See New Worlds

These days, Dundee is arguably better known for comics and computer games than jute, jam and journalism. Taking inspiration from the success of homegrown companies like DC Thompson (publishers of The Beano, The Dandy and Commando) and computer game designers such as Real Time Worlds and DMA Design (who created Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto), the festival’s Dundee programme focuses on how visual and narrative elements inform one another.

There are exhibitions, workshops and talks on comic and videogame design, including 8-bit and Beyond, a look at Dundee and Scotland’s considerable innovations and influence in the world of gaming. Comics conference, Biff! Bam!! Crikey!!!, celebrates the 70th anniversary of the world’s longest running comic, The Dandy as a jumping off point for exploring comics in general, with guest speakers such as cult artist Hunt Emerson. Perhaps the most ambitious project is See New Worlds, a new comic created by three Dundee-based designers (Lyall Bruce of Sooper Double D, Victoria Baker and Stuart David Fallon) and written by Dr Chris Murray.

This unique project uses design disciplines and processes to create an action packed comic set in Dundee in 2037.

‘It’s easy to trivialise comics and think they are very simple. I’ve learnt they are most definitely not,’ laughs Bruce. ‘There’s a lot of design processes involved, how the panels flow, the way the bubbles are placed, what emphasis is put on certain words - it’s been an interesting learning experience.’

‘One of our goals was to make a format that was accessible to everybody,’ says Bruce. ‘Dundee has that fun element of design.’

8-bit and Beyond, White Space, University of Abertay, Dundee, Sat 19 May-Tue 24 Jul. See New Worlds is available from the Festival Information Point, City Square, Dundee, for the duration of the festival.


GlassBox Design Funfair

‘It really makes my heart sink when you see Scottish designers having fantastic ideas and they just can’t find the funding to get them off the ground,’ says Paul Rodgers, a lecturer in Design at Napier University and one of the founding members of Edinburgh lighting and furniture design collective Glass Box.

It’s a scenario that Rodgers is all too familiar with. ‘I’m hoping that the Six Cities Festival is going to make the public and potential investors realise the talent we’ve got here.’

Rodgers and the rest of Glass Box will be running a Design Fairground tailored to the theme of the Edinburgh leg of the festival, which looks at how product design affects quality of life. ‘We wanted to do something exciting and unusual that would get passers by involved. Our first idea was to take over the whole of Princes Street with the world’s biggest game of musical chairs - you know, everyone brings their favourite chair along.’

Instead, Glass Box are going to erect several different traditional fairground stalls on the Mound. ‘We’ve got all the old favourites: hook-a-duck, a coconut shy, a haunted house and a couple of stalls that are a little more critical or risqué.’

Glass Box are also hosting a Rogues’ Gallery. ‘That’s my own personal project,’ says Rodgers. ‘It’s asking people “what would you consign to design hell?” For me it would be shellsuits. They smell, they make a noise - they’re just really badly designed. I’ve collected together about 35 awful products, along with a video installation of talking heads explaining why they hate, you know, clingfilm or tights, and I want members of the public to contribute their own. It’s not just about the brilliant luxury products; design is very much to do with those little everyday things too.’

The Glass Box Design Fairground, The Mound, Edinburgh from Fri 18-Tues 22 May. See for further information.


Glasgow is made by us

The main theme of the Six Cities festival in Glasgow is public design - the way the physical build of a city affects its residents. Neil McGuire’s branding company After The News is one of four organisations running the Glasgow is made by us project, a series of public interventions aimed at changing the way people think about their city.

Organisers placed an article in the Evening Times asking readers which public spaces they felt weren’t working in Glasgow. ‘The passionate responses were really heartening. A lot of people were concerned about public space,’ says McGuire.

At the heart of Glasgow is made by us is a desire to find unusual, low-cost ways of reinventing public spaces like George Square, St Enoch Square, and the pedestrian area on Argyle Street. To this end, McGuire and his team have commissioned about 100 deckchairs.

‘We’re going to use them to re-shape the space. The idea is to get people to sit down there, spend time in the square and to use the public spaces socially,’ explains McGuire. ‘There are those concrete benches in St Enoch Square, but they haven’t been very well thought out. You can’t really sit in a group, and you end up just staring in to the centre or at people at the other side rather than interacting.’

It’s an interesting idea. The deckchair is traditionally used on the beach, of course, a public space that people do like to relax and spend time socialising in. The organisers will also be outlining ideas for creating more green space and increasing city centre mobility in an exhibition of animation, artwork and architectural models at The Lighthouse during the festival.

Glasgow is made by us interventions: St Enoch Square, Thu 24 & Sat 26 May, Argyle Street Thu 31 May, George Square Sat 2 Jun, all 10.30am-5pm. The exhibition will run at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, from Thu 17 May-Wed 27 Jun.

Six Cities Hitlist

There’s a whole lotta design going on across Scotland’s cities


Airworld traces the influence of design on the aviation industry, from the poured concrete sculptures at JFK airport, to the amazing evolution of the aeroplane. Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 27 May.

Claystation: Remodelling Scotland

If you’ve long held a conviction that what your city really needs is an ice cream factory, or a giant monument to Annie Lennox, this is your chance to show the world. Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling. Various dates and times.

DIY: Design It Yourself

Exhibition examining the relationship between alternative design and the music industry, focusing on New Order album sleeve designer Peter Saville and the Los Angeles punk scene. Changing Room, Stirling, until Sat 9 Jun.

The Scottish Show

Thirty-four of Scotland’s best established and emergent designers take over The Lighthouse, creating installations, exhibitions and full-on shows of their work. The Lighthouse, Glasgow, Thu 17 May-Sun 12 Aug.

Zandra Rhodes in Conversation

The High Priestess of Punk talks to the ‘Queen of Cashmere’, Scottish designer Belinda Dickson OBE. Hub, Edinburgh, Thu 24 May.

The Shop

Ever wondered what the perfect retail experience might be? Top designers Steff Norwood and George Gray have tried to create it for you. 4 Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen, Thu 17 May-Sun 3 May

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