Now in its eighth edition, the Design Medal has become one of the design calendar's most anticipated and significant design accolades. Its quartet of winners - awarded during the London Design Festival in the areas of overall excellence, lifetime achievement, entrepreneurial excellence and emerging talent - form a fitting portrait of the design scene, not only in London but globally.
Backed by Italian watch brand Panerai, the London Design Medal was awarded this year to French design siblings Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who over 20-odd years have achieved a consistently relevant portfolio of work. 'The judges felt that this contribution really needed to be recognised,' says Ben Evans, director of the London Design Festival and longtime advocate of the Medal. 'They are ambidextrous in their design, they can put their hands to many different things and they have got an elegance and simplicity to their work that is very hard to achieve. There aren't many people out there who can come up with such clean and elegant solutions to design challenges.'
British architect Richard Rogers won the Coutts Lifetime Achievement prize. Judges recognised the dual quality of his work, his ability to focus on design while achieving a better quality of urban life and helping cities best serve their citizens. 'He has played a leading role in designing buildings that made us think again about how we use them and how they function,' says Evans. 'His eminence is global, and he is part of a golden era of leading British architects who not only reshaped our city but also reshaped the world to some capacity.'
The Swarovski Emerging Talent and Perrier Jouët Design Entrepreneur Medals, both launched in 2012, give a clear message regarding the state of contemporary design in London and worldwide. Roland Lamb, an RCA grad who founded technology startup ROLI and invented the Seaboard piano, was recognised as this year's most relevant emerging talent, for combining technology and scientific research in his forward-thinking approach to design. Wallpaper* digital contributor and Poke founder Nicolas Roope scooped the Design Entrepreneur Medal. He was lauded for his contribution to digital design and his ability to apply his knowledge to different practices (see his 2010 Plumen light bulb).
For Evans, these two winners are good evidence London's current design 'moment' - they are multidisciplinary, forward thinking and ambitious. 'More than 20 design disciplines are of an international standard in London, so I suppose it's inevitable there is a dialogue and crossover between them, and that makes it quite fertile, I think,' he says.
The Medal is not the only initiative to celebrate the international, multidisciplinary reach of the Design Festival. 'We have a massive public audience who are interested in design and creativity,' says Evans. 'London has gained a reputation as a centre for ideas, and I want to continue that.'