The London Design Festival; a festival held every year since 2003, was founded by Sir John Sorrell CBE and Ben Evans CBE to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world. This vision has remained steady and has gained extra importance in 2020; where the world was struck by the great pandemic. 

Winners of the 2020 London Design Medals announced- Paola Antonelli, Ken Garland, Ellen MacArthur and Yinka Ilori - Sheet2

The festival is held to recognize the contribution made by leading design figures and emerging talents to London and its industries. Medals are awarded in 4 categories: The London Design Medal, Lifetime Achievement Medal, Emerging Design Medal, and Design Innovation Medal. An esteemed panel of established designers, industry commentators, and previous winners come together to debate and judge the possible recipients of the four Medals.

On 7th September 2020, a list of the 4 chosen awardees who would be felicitated on the 14th of September, was announced. 

  • London Design Medal: Paola Antonelli
  • Design Innovation Medal: Dame Ellen MacArthur
  • Emerging Design Medal: YinkaIlori
  • Lifetime Achievement Medal: Ken Garland

Ben Evans CBE, (Director of the London Design Festival), says, “Each year the London Design Medal Jury has a passionate, and sometimes robust debate about who should win. They must choose four individuals who each have made significant contributions to the world of design. This year the combination of Paola Antonelli, Ken Garland, Ellen MacArthur, and YinkaIlora is a powerful mix. Paola is the world’s most important design curator, Ken made Galt Toys the best-designed range available, Ellen MacArthur’s foundation is setting the agenda on design and the circular economy, and Yinka dynamically blends the colour of his Nigerian heritage with design. Unusually, we had some unanimous choices; such was the consensus behind the winners. It makes a good year and four hugely deserving individuals.”

    “I realize that the right thing to say would be that I am humbled by this honor, but I’m not! I’m unabashedly proud to have received the London Design Medal and shamelessly boastful. Of all the capitals of design, London is the one that best understands our field‘s breadth, versatility, diversity, and its power to influence society in all aspects of life, everywhere, and at all levels of impact. Design is important, and it is an important moment for design. I thank the jury for recognizing me, as being an effective advocate for design and letting the world understand and embrace it, is my life’s work.” -Paola Antonelli

Winners of the 2020 London Design Medals announced- Paola Antonelli, Ken Garland, Ellen MacArthur and Yinka Ilori - Sheet1

Paola Antonelli, the recipient of The London Design Medal, (the highest accolade bestowed upon an individual who has distinguished themselves within the industry and demonstrated consistent design excellence), is Senior Curator at The Museum of Modern Art in the Department of Architecture & Design, as well as MoMA’s founding Director of Research & Development.Her work investigates design’s impact on everyday experience and possible futures, combining design, architecture, art, science, and technology and her goal at The Museum of Modern Art is to promote the public understanding of design until its positive influence on the world is universally acknowledged.

Antonelli is a well-versed lecturer and has served on several international architecture and design juries.She has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles; the Harvard Graduate School of Design; and the MFA programs of the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her most recent exhibition, NeriOxman: Material Ecology, opened at MoMA in February 2020.She is also currently working on an iteration of Broken Nature that will be on view at MoMA starting in the fall of 2020, and on “@design.emergency,” an Instagram and book project on the role of responsive design to the Covid-19 pandemic, in collaboration with critic Alice Rawsthorn.

“I am honored to have been awarded this year’s Design Innovation Medal. When we started working to accelerate the transition to a circular economy ten years ago, we knew that a new approach to design would be critical: it’s about deciding from the outset to design in a way whereby products, components, and materials stay in the system. Since then thousands of innovators from startups, academia, government, and business have seized the opportunity to think about how they can deliver benefits beyond one product, looking at how that product can fit in a much broader, regenerative system. 2020 has been a year of unprecedented disruption, but seeing people in the creative sector using their skills and talent to build a more circular economy gives me hope that we can build back better.” – Dame Ellen MacArthur

Dame Ellen MacArthur made yachting history in 2005 when she became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe. She has been awarded The Design Innovation Medal (celebrates entrepreneurship in all its forms, both locally and internationally. It honors an individual for whom design lies at the core of their development and success.) She launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010. The Foundation works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, one that is restorative and regenerative, by design. It has launched global initiatives on plastics, fashion, and food developed innovation networks with educators, businesses, cities, and governments, and published more than 20 reports and books. 

Dame Ellen is a World Economic Forum Global Agenda Trustee for Environment and Natural Resource Security and member of its Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy and was a part of the European Commission’s Resource Efficiency Platform between 2012 and 2014.

“I am truly humbled and honored to have won this award. Design has always been a huge part of my life and surroundings, so being able to share it with the world is something very special. It feels good to know that my work has been recognized by the London Design Festival in a time where, in my opinion, design is more important than ever. I just hope my work inspires the next generation of young designers with a similar background to me. I really am grateful and excited for the future.” – YinkaIlori

YinkaIlori, a London-based multidisciplinary artist of British- Nigerian heritage, who specializes in storytelling by fusing his British and Nigerian heritage to tell new stories in contemporary design is the recipient of The Emerging Design Medal (recognizes an impact made on the design scene within five or so years of graduation.) Bringing Nigerian verbal traditional into playful conversation with contemporary design, YinkaIlori’s work touches on various global themes that resonate with different audiences all over the world.

He began his practice in 2011 up-cycling vintage furniture, inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and West African fabrics that surrounded him as a child, and today his studio consists of a team of color-obsessed architects and designers, with the expertise and capacity to take on large-scale architectural and interior design projects. Since his education in Furniture and Product Design at London Metropolitan University, he has exhibited in both London and internationally with solo shows at London Design Festival, Design Miami, British Library, NOW Gallery, The Africa Centre, and Brighton Museum; and as part of group shows at Vitra Design Museum, Museum of London, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Southbank Centre.

“I am delighted to be chosen as the recipient of one of the London Design Medals. At my age (91) I had thought I was a forgotten person – but no, someone still remembers me! As to achievement: all my associates and I did for 50-odd years was to have a lot of fun at other people’s expense. We were so lucky!” -Ken Garland

Ken Garland is a British graphic designer, photographer, writer, and notably, educator, and now a recipient of The Lifetime Achievement Medal (honors a significant and fundamental contribution to the design industry throughout a career.) 

He has made a significant contribution to the development of graphic design since the mid-twentieth century and formed the prolific design studio Ken Garland & Associates in 1962 (until 2009) in Camden, London, where he continues to live and work.

Before forming the studio, Garland worked with editor Michael Farr at Design magazine, as an art editor from 1956 to 1962. The state-funded publication by the Council for Industrial Design formed the basis for Garland’s future work – human-centered, elegantly minimal, and rigorously conceived. Prior to this, Ken Garland studied design at London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts and upon graduation in 1954, undertook an apprenticeship with the trade magazine Furnishings.Garland has been teaching ever since he left school himself, at the Central School London, The University of Reading, The Royal College of Art, and the University of Brighton. He has written five books about design, contributed to numerous graphic design and visual culture publications, and published many influential articles, perhaps most notably. 


Currently pursuing Architecture, Pallavi is in her final year of B.Arch. Being a passionate Architecture student,she’s developed a vast technical and hand-based skill-set. Finally, having had time this lockdown, she revoked her love for reading about the field which ultimately led her to believe that “Form does follow Function”.