Virtual Design Festival


Virtual Design Festival clocks up over a million video plays as it reaches the halfway stage

As our Virtual Design Festival reaches the halfway point, founder and editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs selects his highlights from the most ambitious project Dezeen has ever attempted.

We're now halfway through the 77-day run of Virtual Design Festival, the world's first-ever online design festival. Since tomorrow is a holiday in the UK, we're taking a short breather before we embark on the second half of a marathon that started on 15 April and ends on 30 June.

Studio Drift Franchise Freedom performance over Rotterdam
VDF live-streamed Studio Drift's drone performance over Rotterdam

So far we've published almost 300 separate VDF posts, including 25 live Screentime interviews, 25 collaborations with organisations and brands, 53 products and five virtual student shows.

We've featured countless architects and designers, including the work of 51 creatives as part of our collaboration with Sight Unseen and over 80 designers in our Ventura Projects tie-up.

Beatie Wolfe is the subject of documentary Orange Juice for the Ears: from Space Beams to Anti-Streams
LA musician Beatie Wolfe gave an exclusive performance

We've toured a castle with a real princess, live-streamed events including musical performances, a DJ set and a swarm of drones, and conducted a rolling two-hour conversation with seven different designers.

We visited Milan's Bar Basso where Maurizio Stocchetto, the design world's favourite barman, showed us how to make his signature cocktail. Later, a Finnish chef took us on a live foraging expedition in a forest.

The Exchange in Sydney by Kengo Kuma
Architect Kengo Kuma gave a live lecture about his work

Fashion legend Iris van Herpen showed us around her atelier. Two of the original members of Archigram spoke exclusively about the influential architecture collective's legacy.

Our launch movie featured video lockdown messages from over 35 creatives around the world while our first live interview featured leading trend forecaster Li Edelkoort sharing her predictions for a post-coronavirus world.

Iris van Herpen's atelier in Amsterdam
Iris van Herpen showed us around her fashion atelier

We launched Virtual Design Festival as a way of bringing people together and allowing commerce to continue during the coronavirus pandemic since the key international events where people would normally get together and do business, such as Milan design week and the Venice Architecture Biennale, were being pushed back in the calendar (and were later cancelled altogether).

Musician Rosey Chan
Rosey Chan performed a live piano improvisation

It was also intended as a way of making up for lost income. The pandemic meant that our business model was toast, so we had to come up with new ideas in a hurry. We didn't really know what we were doing. We thought we'd figure it out as we went along.

With the Dezeen office closed, the Dezeen team worked remotely to deliver the content, with live interviews conducted from an impromptu studio set up in a bedroom at our London home.

Sami Tallberg is a chef, author, forager and biohacker who specialises in seasonal, local and wild food.
Finnish chef Sami Tallberg took us on a live foraging expedition

It's been the most complex, ambitious and exhausting project we've ever embarked on. But it's also been a huge success, contributing to our astonishing audience growth (we're up around 10 per cent compared to last year) and helping us stay afloat financially.

Plug-In City by Archigram
Archigram co-founder Peter Cook spoke about Plug-In City as part of an exclusive VDF video series

VDF video content has already generated over one million views on the VDF pages and our Facebook, YouTube and Instagram channels. The festival has been covered in publications including The Guardian, Corriere della Serra, South China Morning Post and National Geographic.

It has helped us climb the internet rankings to become one of the 3,500 most popular websites in the world.

Bar Basso owner Maurizio Stocchetto appears live as part of VDF
We streamed a cocktail masterclass from Milan's Bar Basso, seen here in 1977

We'd like to send a huge thank-you to all our readers, our collaborators, sponsors (particularly our headline sponsor Grohe) and partners, and especially to the Dezeen team, which has put in a monumental effort under very difficult circumstances to deliver VDF so far. They are amazing.

Walden by Schloss Hollenegg for VDF
Princess Alice Stori Liechtenstein showed us around her castle

VDF will end on 30 June but its legacy will live on. New commercial services created as part of the festival such as our products fair, virtual student shows and studio showcases have been very successful and we plan for them to continue in some form after VDF ends.

And, as the world's first online design festival, VDF is itself something that we hope to repeat again in future. Stay tuned and thanks for watching so far! There's plenty more to come...