Dyslexic Design

A powerful exhibition at London's designjunction explores the link between dyslexia and creativity…

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Thought-provoking exhibition ‘Dyslexic Design’, at Kings Cross’s designjunction event, explores the connection between dyslexia and creativity. Showcasing work by 10 dyslexic designers, including established and emerging names, the show encourages us to rethink this so-called disability. Yes, it’s a challenge, but can it also be a gift?

TOP: Handblown borosilicate glass 'Egg' decanter with cork details by Sebastian Bergne
ABOVE: Steam-bent wood 'No 1 Pendant' light by Tom Raffield; crystal 'Gauge' vase by Jim Rokos; 'Markets Royale 1816/2014' limited-edition archival giclée print by Kristjana S Williams

Defined as ‘a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling’, dyslexia affects 10 per cent of the UK population, four per cent severely. The project, in support of the British Dyslexia Association, is one close to designjunction show director Deborah Spencer’s heart. ‘I had dyslexia growing up which led me down the path of art and design. In many ways dyslexia defined me as a person.’

ABOVE'Knot' lamp by Vitamin; 'Surface' table by Terence Woodgate (with John Barnard); 'Hunter Jacket: Gorilla' jacket by Rohan Chhabra, which transforms into the shape of a gorilla

Curated by designer Jim Rokos as part of the London Design Festival, the five-day exhibition aims to disrupt perceptions of dyslexia, highlighting its close ties with design creativity, a positive spin on what can often be a stigmatised condition. Talented designers on board represent diverse disciplines, from industrial and product design to illustration, fashion, fine art, architecture and craft, including Terence Woodgate, Sebastian Bergne, Vitamin, Kristjana S Williams, Tom Raffield, Tina Crawford (aka Tobyboo), Rohan Chhabra, Bethan Laura Wood and Rokos himself. On show are furniture, tableware, lighting, art works, accessories and apparel, all enriched with unexpected perspectives.

‘It is my belief that I am able to design the way I do because of my dyslexia and not despite it,’ says Rokos. ‘I also firmly believe that other dyslexic designers have idiosyncratic styles because of their dyslexia.’ Environmental designer Ab Rogers, who devised the exhibition set, adds, ‘At times dyslexia can be frustrating for those who have it, and those who live with it second-hand, but it should still be celebrated as an asset, not commiserated as a fault.’

ABOVE: Designjunction show director Deborah Spencer; 'Dyslexic Design' exhibition designer Ab Rogers, and founder/curator Jim Rokos

Clearly, the show demonstrates that dyslexia needn’t hold you back in the creative industries, and in fact that seeing things slightly differently, through the lens of a dyslexic mind, could even prove an advantage. It examines the links between dyslexia and lateral, visual and three-dimensional thinking, while also acknowledging the challenges of working with a less common brain structure.

Examples of such innovative lateral thinking include embroidery artist Tina Crawford's detailed thread-drawn illustrations crafted using a sewing machine; jewellery designer Sari Råthel's fingertip rings; and Rohan Chhabra's endangered species series of hunting jackets that fold into a gorilla, elephant, rhino, antelope or tiger.

Don’t miss the panel discussion on ‘How to be Creative and Successful when you are Dyslexic’ (5pm-6pm, Saturday 24 September, The Gallery Room, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1), bringing together many of the designers involved. Book your spot here. Even the typographic design of the exhibition's title tells a story; its font has been designed by Daniel Britton to take longer for a non-dyslexic person to read, mirroring the frustrations of dyslexia. Now that's creative...
thedesignjunction.co.uk   dyslexicdesign.co.uk

Dyslexic Design is at designjunction from 22-25 September 2016 as part of London Design Festival. Find it at Dyslexic House, No H9 (Fast East Side), Granary Square, King's Cross, N1