London’s Design Museum announced its annual Designers in Residence recipients. The group of four designers, operating across different fields, will be supported by the museum to develop a project which will culminate in an installation unveiled in March 2021.

The Design Museum programme, now in its 13th iteration, aims at supporting designers at the start of their career, giving them financial and practical means, as well as industry support, to develop crucial work. This year, Enni-Kukka Tuomala, Abiola Onabule, Cynthia Voza Lusilu and Ioana Man have been selected to develop projects based on the particularly timely theme of ‘Care’, and their design explorations will look to improve some of the social and environmental challenges we are facing today. 

Designers in Residence

This is an important time for creatives to think about how our post-pandemic world can be shaped by design, looking at technology, human relations, the environment and self-care. ‘At a time of upheaval and tragedy, design has shown itself to be up to the task of equipping us to face adversity, with designers manufacturing vital PPE and other equipment during the pandemic,’ says Priya Khanchandani, the Design Museum’s newly-appointed head of curatorial and interpretation. ‘In a post-Covid environment, it is more important than ever that we support emerging designers whose work has the capacity to solve problems, grow empathy and build bridges of understanding.’

Empathy Echo Chamber by Enni-Kukka Tuomala
An example of Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s Empathy Chambers. Photography: Rachel Joseph

The multidisciplinary, all-female quartet represents a new generation of creative thinkers particularly equipped to face the present and future challenges through their diverse specialisms. ‘Right now, it is imperative that designers are engaged in conversations about care as we enter a period of greater social, political and ecological uncertainty. These designers are proposing tools and systems to help us navigate this landscape,’ says Sumitra Upham, the Designers in Residence project curator.

Enni-Kukka Tuomala

London-based Finnish designer and artist Enni-Kukka Tuomala’s work ‘is focused on fostering issue-based cross-cultural empathy’, which she has addressed through projects such as the Empathy Chamber and Campaigns for Empathy in London and Cambridge.

At the Design Museum, Tuomala will develop an immersive ‘empathy training programme’, which will build on traditional exercising archetypes and include a personal empathy trainer, an empathy gym as well as tools and practical exercises with the aim of practicing empathy into our everyday lives. 

Abiola Onabulé Fashion
The work of Abiola Onabule. Photography: Jessica Ross

Abiola Onabule

Fashion designer Abiola Onabule’s garments are inspired by her Nigerian heritage. Through her residency, Onabule will look at the stories of West African women living in the UK to investigate how the exchange of skills and craftsmanship techniques can become an important act of care and conversation. 

Healing Chronicles by Cynthia Voza Lusilu
Healing Chronicles by Cynthia Voza Lusilu, a project she developed during her MA at Goldsmith university to approach the issue of mental health and emotional wellness through the meaning of objects and storytelling

Cynthia Voza Lusilu

Paris-born Cynthia Voza Lusilu’s design research work has had a focus on care from the start of her practice – ‘put care first, always’, reads her personal manifesto. ‘My recent research is centered around ways of engaging with people through community-based participatory practices. I explore care and repair as vehicles to support emotional wellness and sense of place,’ she says of her work.

The project at the Design Museum will focus on mental health in Black British communities, through restorative tools and a new support system to promote resilience and the creation of healing spaces. 

Ioana Man Soil Care
Probiotic Rituals: Soil Care by Ioana Man

Ioana Man

Multidisciplinary designer Ioana Man’s work revolves around architecture, set design and critical practice with a focus on science and biology. Through her residency, Man aims at developing ways to protect ecosystems impacted by architectural planning and modern construction practices, to focus communities around urban nature. 

‘Embarking on their residency, this year’s all-female cohort will face the crucial challenge of considering the question of "care”,’ adds Khanchandani. ‘A cause that was long obscured by the pursuit of more and has now been thrown into stark relief.’§