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Dyslexic Design

An impressive exhibition at this year’s designjunction during London Design Festival explored the links between dyslexia and creativity.

Good design is about making you look at the world in a new way and challenging preconceived notions – which is precisely what the Dyslexic Design exhibition does so successfully. Showcasing the creative work by 13 dyslexic designers and exploring the connection between dyslexia and creativity, the exhibition is in support of the British Dyslexia Association. It was on for five days during London Design Festival as part of designjunction.

The exhibition was designed by celebrated interior designer Ab Rogers and curated by Jim Rokos, both of whom are dyslexic. “Dyslexia actually helps me as a designer,” says Rogers. “It allows me to see things in three-dimensions and remember colours, conversations, tastes and smells with real accuracy.”

“It is my belief that I am able to design the way I do because of my dyslexia and not despite it,” says Rokos. “I also firmly believe that other dyslexic designers have idiosyncratic styles because of their dyslexia.”

It was a sentiment echoed by many of the designers involved, whose work covered everything from fashion, jewellery and fine art to home accessories and lighting.

“Dyslexia is part of who I am and allows one to stand out in the crowd with a unique way of seeing the world,” says designer and artist Bethan Laura Wood, who exhibited a piece from her acclaimed Moon Rock series. “I make my living sharing and seeing the world through colour and patterns extracted from the things that surround me. I can see all the big questions in the small things and the minute detail in the big.”

Many of the objects challenged conventional typologies, such as jewellery designer Sari Rathel’s Fingertip rings that adorn the top of the finger. “Working creatively has always been the most natural way for me to function,” she says.

Most designers talked of how dyslexia changed the way they perceived the world, such as lighting and furniture designer Tom Raffield, who showcased his elegantly chaotic No. 1 Pendant. “I’ve always felt I’ve seen the world a little differently from the rest,” he says. “I soon discovered that being different can actually be very empowering.” Rohan Chhabra’s exhibited project, Embodying Ethics: Endangered, is a series of hunting jackets that take the form of animals under threat, encouraging viewers to see the world as he does.

Some spoke of how their craft allowed them to express themselves in ways that dyslexia made difficult. “Free embroidery on a sewing machine is like reverse drawing, moving the base not the tool,” says embroidery artist Tina Crawford. “I find embroidering words easier than writing them.”

Others talked of some of the challenges that come with having dyslexia. “I want to do everything,” says Icelandic-born artist Kristjana S Williams, whose Markets Royal was exhibited as an example of her mind-bogglingly intricate work. “I get excited so it becomes overwhelming. I think this thirst has held me back as much as it has pushed me forward.”

Dyslexic Design was housed in one of eight red houses that were temporarily erected in Granary Square Kings Cross for LDF. The Director of the British Dyslexia Foundation, Fay Dutton, was available throughout the exhibition to speak with visitors about dyslexia.

“I am delighted designjuntion shares my vision and desire to remove the unwanted and unwarranted stigma sometimes associated with dyslexia and, in doing so, change perceptions of it,” says Deborah Spencer, Managing Director of designjunction. “We believe dyslexia is something that drives and inspires creative thought and design.”

This year marks the first time designjunction has been held at Granary Square. Other highlights from the exhibition included a studio Candice Lau leathercraft workshop, a pop-up luxury retail concept, and an immersive interactive installation by design studio four23.

Running alongside designjunction – in a spectacular 70-metre-long structure by Danish designer Peter J. Lassen in Cubitt House – is lightjunction, an exhibition showcasing hundreds of leading lighting brands.

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