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Small Country - Ambitious Festival. DesignMarch in Reykjavík 0

Reykjavík, Iceland
March 23 – 30, 2014

DesignMarch is Iceland’s most important annual design festival. Organized for the sixth time this year, it will be the largest and most significant yet, with an expected 100 or so events that will transform the most northerly capital in the world into one big venue for design.

From fashion to furniture, architecture to food design, the festival showcases the best of the local design scene alongside exciting international names, opening with DesignTalks, a day of lectures by internationally acclaimed designers and the foremost local design thinkers.

DesignMarch is organized by Iceland Design Centre, the promotion agency of Icelandic design and architecture. Halla Helgadottir, managing director of the Iceland Design Centre, kindly answered a few questions of

How is it that in a small country like Iceland, there is such a big, ambitious and colorful design festival? It’s a rare phenomenon even in much larger countries…

It's a small country with few people, but it is also a tightly knit society where people within the design industry are close - as are designers and other creative professionals. That allows for cross-disciplinary collaborations with, for examples, artists (such as Ragnar Kjartansson in DesignMarch) and dancers (Hildur Yeoman and ID). DesignMarch is a grassroots festival which is based on the fact that the active design community partakes in, and essentially creates, the festival themselves. 

The first DesignMarch was held in 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis. In those dark times, DesignMarch was about celebrating; today, design is also a serious option for the future of the country. See a great piece by Pete Collard in Disegno.

In your opinion, are there characteristics that are specific to this region? And if so, what are they?

It's difficult to say, but there are some things that define the scene. It is very cross-disciplinary (see above), and in a small community, the connections across industry borders are natural. 

There's no long, heavy design tradition, so designers are "free" – there's no ready-made frame. Often this comes through as a sense of humor, as well. Then we, of course, work with the Nordic design tradition and the West Nordic tradition – which is with the other islands of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. While we are far away, we are still very open to influences – many designers study abroad and then return to Iceland. And, of course, nature is a huge inspiration. 

What was the formula for selecting program-participants for this festival? Was there a specific selection process or, on the contrary, everyone who wants to can participate?

The designers submit their suggestions. Our board goes through them, but instead of turning anyone away, we try to help develop the concept and thereby, have as many joining as possible.

How do so many design categories coexists with one another in one festival?

That's one of Iceland's special characteristics – our society is so small that everybody knows each other. The Iceland Design Centre represents all of these fields; it may be difficult at times, but it also gives us so much more to have design, in its widest sense possible, as part of the festival. 

Could you list a few program highlights that one should not miss?

1. DesignTalks 

 2. Yulia

3. Staka

4. Raise a Flag

5. Kosmos

6. Design Museum