Sri Lanka Design Festival’s ‘Innovation Island’

Monday, 5 November 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Global design collaborations for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is bringing in a uniquely South Asian voice to the international conversation on design and innovation; this is as the region’s creative hub – the ‘Innovation Island’. It is a voice that derives from South Asia’s own heritage of wisdom linked to its millennia old arts and cultures, as well as Sri Lanka’s new know-how as the regional melting pot of diverse lifestyles and international trends, owing to its strategic geographical position. 

It speaks about putting design at the service of humankind as well as the planet, building an interesting correlation between innovation, commerce and sustainability in both social and environmental paradigms, within the grand narrative of disrupting our current systems. One event will become the central point to broadcast this voice, with a powerful audience from across the world: This is Sri Lanka Design Festival, and its 2018 edition will unfold under the theme ‘Innovation Island’ with the participation of the local design community, South Asian influencers and a carefully selected delegation of innovators, creators and design entrepreneurs from around the globe. 

The event will be held in Colombo from 9 -10 and 11 November. Organised by the country’s leading catalyst for design and innovation – AOD – in partnership with the state, private sector and international entities like British Council and the Netherlands’ Embassy, the event will connect South Asian design, particularly from Sri Lanka, with global counterparts, aiming to create a series of impactful global collaborations out of the island. The event venue – Trace Expert City in Colombo – will be transformed with an inspiring program of landmark projects, installations, talks and knowledge-sharing events, converting the area into a mini metropolis of design, innovation and fascinating mergers between lifestyle and tech.


A nine-year journey linking commerce and creativity

Sri Lanka Design Festival – an annual showcase of what the country has to offer the world in terms of design and innovation – has always maintained a definite business focus, underpinning the growing link between creativity and commerce. With economists coining ‘creativity’ as the currency dominating the twenty first century consumer markets, design gains new value as its commercially relevant form; this becomes the premise for Sri Lanka Design Festival each year, creating a platform where design, its practitioners and users come together to present, discuss and experience some of the most ground-breaking design work from Sri Lanka and the South Asian region. 

This year’s festival is its ninth edition, and maintains this commercial focus, while elevating it to a whole new level through international design collaborations. With the 2018 edition themed ‘Innovation Island’, Sri Lanka Design Festival will focus on projects and work that has helped shape Sri Lanka’s current design led economy as South Asia’s creative hub, and also ideas, philosophies and ground-breaking moves that will help the country progress forward with design and innovation as key economic pillars.

A showcase of how design and innovation intersects human lives 

Curated experiences that create sensory immersions into how brands and businesses are now using creativity to build better products and services; mind-expanding talks and conferences that bring in new perspectives in designing for a market landscape that is in constant flux, where and why creative expression and business should meet culture and how our move towards sustainability can be expedited with design; workshops that democratise design thinking and processes to help people understand the relevance of design to every aspect of modern human lives; Exhibitions that capture shifting design philosophies and where new work values meet architecture through the works of industry innovators and new gen designers – these are the elements that make up Sri Lanka Design Festival’s 2018 ‘Innovation Island’ edition.

Some of the highlights are ‘Creative Economies Policy Forum’ hosted in partnership with the British Council Colombo, ‘REVEAL Graduate Design Showcase’ featuring AOD’s young talent in graphic and visual communication design, fashion, interior design and animation, Artisan entrepreneurs’ pop-up, ‘Design Thinking Forum’ and ‘Knowledge Exchange Roundtable’ hosted in collaboration with the Netherlands’ Embassy, ‘Design Katha’ mini talk series including ‘Ladies, Wine and Design Colombo’ and the ‘Circular Design Workshop’ by the Dutch project CIRCO. 

Global design collaborations  with Sri Lanka 

The variety of international design collaborations that Sri Lanka Design Festival is presenting this year is unprecedented. A common thread through all the collaborations is how design, innovation and creativity link with macro themes like circular economies, sustainability and national policy making. Some of the key delegates coming through these partnerships include Bart Ahsmann of CLICKNL – a Dutch creative industries’ knowledge and innovation network, Christine de Lille—professor of innovation networks at Hague University of Applied Sciences, Dr. Frits Grotenhuis who is an expert in building strategic networks, joint research agendas, infrastructures and innovation platforms, Vera Winthagen – strategic design consultant at Eindhoven municipality, Paulien Strijland – CEO and co-founder of Design4Good as well as its co-founder Eric Joustra, Stella van Himbergen – director and owner of Dutch Design in Development, Bas Hillerström – consultant for Circo and Sustainable Minds, Thijs Adriaans –filmmaker, photographer, researcher and storyteller, Rens Tap – business development manager of Modint, the Dutch Association of Clothing and Textiles Companies, Lucie Huiskens – co-founder and program coordinator CLICKNL and NextFashion. These global experts will draw from the knowledge resources and collective experiences of their nations that have already used design as a major contributor to their economies, and help Sri Lanka navigate through the process of forming a national policy for a focused creative economy, and help the business world and the public understand the significance of this process to the island.

Why this works 

The event this year truly converges the triplex needed to push design thinking – education, government and industry – through global collaborations especially geared towards each. What’s coming through at Sri Lanka Design Festival this year with ‘Innovation Island’ are results of a decade worth of work by entities like AOD, in finding strong global links to help solidify Sri Lanka’s design driven economy from all three perspectives of state, industry and education. Therefore, SLDF will become the platform to connect the local government to global consultancies, researchers and policymakers who’ve worked in building creative economies, Lankan design academia to international educators who have prepared future talent fit to play an active role in building a thriving design ecosystem, and business consultancies that can help local industries to really harness the benefits of a creative industries policy by beginning to align their thinking and work philosophies. It’s the beginning of something major for Sri Lanka, and it is an inspiring movement driven by AOD’s creative energy and the fantastic supporters from the industry, global delegates and partners like British Council and the Embassy of Netherlands.

What’s in it for Lankan businesses and citizens

The festival is open to Sri Lankan businesses, designers and the general public, to walk in free and take part in the festival this weekend. For brands, design entrepreneurs and businesses that understand where design and innovation meets what they do, and design enthusiasts alike, there’s a lot to discover and engage with. For businesses, there is employable, professional design talent, projects and people innovating at the frontiers of many sectors from architectural elements to typography, international design connections, new ideas and like-minded collaborators. For visitors, there is thought-provoking discussion on how design is impacting our everyday lives, experiences built on creativity, technology and lifestyles, and inspiration everywhere. It’s really something to be part of, as we all progress towards a whole new future for Sri Lanka. 

For detailed event schedules, workshop registrations and more information: