Dundee Design Festival Takes Up Residence in Shopping Centre

How can a city use design to shape its future? Poised to answer this question is the third Dundee Design Festival which has transformed under utilised parts of an inner-city shopping centre into a series of exhibition spaces and design-led experiences.

For an eight day run from 10am to 5pm daily, the Keiller Centre’s permanent tenants: fashion, workwear and flower shops, newsagent, key-cutter and nail-bar, will have new neighbours in the form of live production spaces, contemporary design showcases, a coffee bar and ‘Living Library’ where visitors can work, read and collaborate. 

The team behind this year’s festival, designers Lyall Bruce and Ryan McLeod in partnership with UNESCO City of Design Dundee with support from EventScotland part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate and Creative Scotland have hit the refresh button on what a design festival is and how it should work.

Identity is at the core of the festival, with programme ideas distilled from responses to questions posed in late 2018, namely: What would make your city more liveable? What would make your city more loveable? 

“It was a deliberately democratic approach to get everyone to feed in to what the festival should be and could be. There was a real concern about what city centres were going to be like in the future and how much empty space there seemed to be. That was at the forefront when we were considering the site. says Lyall Bruce

The radical programme explores process, makes design accessible and delivers it in an exciting on-demand format allowing citizens, unconstrained by technical ability or expensive software, to make their thoughts and ideas visible. 

“People can turn up and take part in over 10 design experiences and interactive exhibitions – all day every day – and after hours join in with Afterworks, a series of thought-provoking events taking place each evening across the city.” said Ryan McLeod.

“It’s about what people who live in the city think. Citizens are much more attuned to cultural shifts than councils are. One of the reasons we see modern failures in cities is because city officials don’t plan or respond well to things changing quickly. This festival has the systems and tools to facilitate people of all ages to communicate their ideas in a way that’s fun, efficient and free.”

Keiller Centre manager Angus Morton said, “It’s bringing something completely different to the centre. The freshly painted exterior and re-vamped units are looking great and we’re hoping the design festival will bring lots more people to the centre who are keen to see what’s going on.”

“Across the world, city centres are changing because shopping habits are changing and we need to create other things to do in our city centres. We hope that Dundee Design Festival helps generate other ideas about how we use Dundee city-centre in the future.” said Annie Marrs, UNESCO City of Design Dundee.

5 things to do and see at the Design Festival in Dundee.

Enter the colourful exhibition space of Poster Playground and choose from two different production methods ‘printing blocks’ or ‘building blocks’ and use a specially created typeface to create your design and get your message out there. Your design will be printed and pasted up in designated poster sites around the city. The patterns and colour palette of Poster Playground are all inspired by the historic sweet wrappers of James Keiller & Son.

The expressive typeface references the historic wrappers, colour palettes and typography used by the original Keiller factory which produced Dundee cake, Toblerone chocolate and Dundee’s world renowned marmalade and was formerly located on the same site as the current festival.


Fragrance studio Arboretum and designer Pete Thomas have created an experience that uses scent to encourage you to think about hopeful futures. Looking forward to the year 2039, Approaching Air will take a collective vision of the future and distill it into a unique scent. Visit the lab to contribute your positive stories and be part of the creation of this bespoke fragrance. During the festival the doors to the lab will be open and scent will be diffused at regular intervals.

The Design Superstore is a rare opportunity to see and buy an exciting range of contemporary design products from makers based all over Scotland including jewellery by Kate Trouw and ceramics by Clod & Pebble. Curated around the theme Liveable/Loveable by Tea Green Events, there’s lots to love and plenty you’d like to live with. The futuristic pastel hued exhibition space has been custom built by Roots Furniture and is a must-see in its own right.

City Brand Simulator is an interactive installation that shows with the right systems and flexible structures, a city’s identity can be adaptable and representative. The simulator allows you manipulate a giant hypothetical future city brand of Dundee using buttons and sliders on a custom-built console to configure and fine-tune your version of the city’s identity. You can even submit it to be saved in the festival’s brand archive.

In Subject to Availability four designers take turns to create limited edition products from a specially designed live production space. Watch them work and gain an insight into their design process and buy products from the specially designed range at the festival. See Steph Liddle, Lynne MacLachlan, Kevin Sinclair and Jen Stewart create ceramics, 3D printed jewellery, lighting and limited edition t-shirts.

See the full festival programme at https://2019.dundeedesignfestival.com and follow @designdundee #DDF19 for updates. Listen to the podcast about Dundee Design Festival by Agency of None here: https://2019.dundeedesignfestival.com/about/

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