Every design innovation has a back story. But how often does that story come to you printed on a card at the point of sale? That sort of design transparency is rare. The who, where, when and why of a product have become incidental in this era when we increasingly expect bigger and better without paying heed to the wheels turning behind the scenes. If we only knew...

International design fairs do their best to answer those questions with schedules of lectures from the major players in the industry. The Cheltenham Design Festival goes one step further, eschewing bold furniture displays and grassroots hawkers in favour of the voices from the design trenches.

For three days in April, Cheltenham president John Hegarty - the legendary adman who began his career at Saatchi & Saatchi and went on to found Bartle Bogle Hegarty - hosts a series of talks at the city's Parabola Arts Centre featuring a spectrum of innovators. Old-guard creatives like Kenneth Grange (whose CV includes the timeless design of the London black cab) and author Ken Robinson share anecdotes from the past and examine the impact their generations might have on the future.

They share the stage with 21st-century ground-breakers like the graphic designer and showman Stefan Sagmeister, famous for his collaborations with music greats like Lou Reed, David Byrne and Brian Eno. Sagmeister will discuss ways to achieve happiness through design, while digital designer and founder of the Poke creative agency, Simon Waterfall, will question the 'why' behind our quest for technological supremacy.

Visitors will still get their eye candy. Matthew Humphries, chief designer of the Morgan Motor Company will discuss his inspired design for the 3 Wheeler with glossy visuals. Ditto Matthew Wells of engineering outfit Techniker, who'll talk his role in the tallest bridge in England, across the River Wear in Sunderland, due for completion in 2015.