Dear readers

Of all the challenges and unexpected benefits of lockdown, one ray of light and optimism was the announcement this spring of Design Emergency, a project by two design visionaries, Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli.

Individually they have shaped contemporary design, Alice being a highly influential critic and author of Design as an Attitude and Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, and Paola a senior curator of MoMA, creator of ‘Broken Nature’ at the XXII Triennale di Milano – one of the most important exhibitions of recent times – and winner of the London Design Medal at this year’s LDF. Now they have joined forces to explore design’s role during and after Covid-19 – through an Instagram Live series with thematic discussions, interviews, and introductions to design innovations. Design Emergency is exactly what we needed: a testament to design’s ability to innovate and inspire in a time of crisis.

Our annual Guest Editors’ issue has always felt special in the way it acts as a lightning rod for the times, an opportunity to invite creative pioneers to take their seat at the Wallpaper* editorial desk and make their mark on the magazine. Over the years we’ve enlisted such luminaries as Dieter Rams, Zaha Hadid, Rei Kawakubo, Karl Lagerfeld, David Lynch, Robert Wilson, Frank Gehry, Liz Diller and Neri Oxman, so I am delighted we could invite the incredibly inspiring duo of Alice and Paola to be Guest Editors for 2020 – a year we will never forget.

They have divided their content into two sections – ‘Design Leaders in the Covid-19 Response’, and ‘Design Leaders of Post-Pandemic Reconstruction’. Their interviewees are varied: the former category includes a medical illustrator, a creative director of a public health campaign, a tech entrepreneur, the co-founder of a non-profit architecture practice, and an information designer. Likewise, among the ‘leaders of the reconstruction’ are Italian designers Formafantasma and Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, names that are well known to and long admired by the Wallpaper* audience, but also British social designer Hilary Cottam, who is calling for a ‘fifth social revolution’, and Pakistani telemedicine pioneers Sehat Kahani, who are mobilising the country’s women doctors to transform healthcare; evidence of Alice and Paola’s long-held thesis that design has stretched beyond its professional definition to become an attitude.

We also welcome the consistently brilliant Studio Frith, involved in Design Emergency from the outset, which has guest art-directed this special section, and Brigitte Lacombe, who photographed everyone involved on Zoom, creating captivating images that resonate with our unique circumstances. Read it, save it, bookmark it, go back to it. Learn from what Design Emergency is highlighting. Follow @design.emergency on Instagram and join the cause. As Alice says so eloquently: ‘By working in an intelligent, thoughtful and responsible way, with relevant specialists from other fields, designers could make a major impact in trying to rebuild our lives for the better.’

Elsewhere in the issue, we’ve commissioned photographer Hannah Starkey to create a 17-page portfolio of London in lockdown, and we take a deep dive into American Hardwood and Benchmark’s Connected, a project that invites international talents to design from a distance. Further highlights include Michael Anastassiades’ furniture debut for Molteni & C, Tavares Strachan’s rediscovery of a forgotten polar explorer, Miska Miller-Lovegrove’s transformation of a 16th-century Polish merchant’s house, and Deyan Sudjic’s account of Chilean design studio GT2P’s affair with lava.

None of us can predict what will happen next, all we can do is put our best foot forward, keep in mind the power of design to foster positive change, and stick together as an industry to pave the way. Solidarity is vital. Be intelligent, thoughtful and responsible. Look for authenticity, integrity, truth. Let’s strive to make things better.

Please enjoy the issue, which is available to download and read on screen below.

Sarah Douglas