Design In An Age of Crisis - Open Call

Chatham House and London Design Biennale announce full details of ‘Design In An Age of Crisis,’ a global Open Call for radical design thinking.

News release
Published 22 July 2020 Updated 10 November 2020 3 minute READ
Design In An Age of Crisis

Design In An Age of Crisis

London Design Biennale and Chatham House today publish the Open Call for Design In An Age of Crisis, inviting radical design thinking from the world’s design community, young people and the public.

Seeking to harness the creativity that comes from crisis, the Open Call will look for innovative design thinking across four critically affected areas - Health, Environment, Society and Work – considering how to create healthier, greener, equal and prosperous societies.

The Opportunity
An exhibition of the most innovative design submissions will be presented online by London Design Biennale and Chatham House in Autumn 2020, with a selection also exhibited at the third edition of London Design Biennale at Somerset House in June 2021. Chatham House further aims to work with a number of selected submissions to help make the design thinking a reality.

The Briefs
Open to all, from established practices to budding young designers across all design disciplines, Design In An Age Of Crisis seeks to find radical and rapid responses to problems facing humanity, today and tomorrow, in response to four briefs.

The briefs address the many issues which the current COVID-19 pandemic has either shone a light on or further exacerbated, including: the poor health and unhealthy living situations of millions of people across the world; the climate emergency; social and economic inequalities; and the rapid transformations in work and the economy affecting employment and livelihood opportunities.

The OPEN CALL consists of four briefs created by an international steering group of over fifty designers, academics, entrepreneurs and business leaders:

  • Environment: Building back greener: how can we design better places?
  • Health: From illness to wellness: how can design make it easier to be healthy?
  • Society: Equality for all: how can design help empower everyone?
  • Work: Making work work for us: how can work be designed to be more meaningful?

All four briefs can be found here. For young people, there is a specially designed brief also available.

Submissions can be in any format and any stage of thought, from a simple sketch to a fully developed concept. The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2020, and full guidelines and further details are available here.

Sir John Sorrell CBE, president of London Design Biennale, said: ‘In the face of a crisis, smart design thinking proves time and again to be an invaluable resource – designers are hard-wired to respond to complex problems with agility and ingenuity. Open dialogue and co-operation are also inherent to the design world. This partnership between London Design Biennale and Chatham House, and our Open Call, ‘Design in an Age of Crisis’, is borne of that collaborative spirit, and will enable both of us to show how design can be used to effect positive change where it is needed most.’

Rose Abdollahzadeh, Managing Director of Research Partnerships, Chatham House, said: This collaboration with London Design Biennale launches the Chatham House SNF CoLab - an initiative to bring many more people into discussions about how to solve the world’s most critical problems. Our partnership brings together two London-based organizations both focused on fostering international dialogue and cooperation. By harnessing the creativity of the global design community around some key global challenges, we hope to bring the worlds of design and policymaking together to produce effective solutions.’

The four steering groups were co-chaired by:

  • Alice Rawsthorn, Design Critic and Author, and Kara Hanson, Professor of Health System Economics, LSHTM (Health)
  • Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, and Keith Priest, Architect and Co-Founder, Fletcher Priest (Environment)
  • Lisa Witter, Co-Founder & Executive Chair, Apolitical, and Ben Terrett, CEO Public Digital (Society)
  • Lucy Parker, Senior Partner, Brunswick Group, and Professor Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design, RCA (Work).

Full participants available here.

For further information on London Design Biennale, please contact: Brunswick Arts | Annabel Hoyng - van der Meijden / Charlotte Sidwell | [email protected] or +44 7834 502346

For further information on Chatham House, please contact: Jemma Finnegan | [email protected] or +44 7554 074743.

About London Design Biennale
Established in 2016 by Sir John Sorrell CBE and Ben Evans CBE, London Design Biennale is a prestigious biannual event and a highlight on the global cultural calendar. The 2018 Biennale welcomed the world’s most exciting and ambitious designers, innovators and cultural bodies to the capital with over 200,000 visitors to Somerset House over the three-week period. The third edition of London Design Biennale, June 2021, will be curated by Artistic Director Es Devlin. Taking over the entirety of Somerset House, including the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court and River Terrace, participants will respond to the theme, Resonance.

London Design Biennale’s International Advisory Committee and Jury includes: Ms Paola Antonelli, Ms Victoria Broackes, Mr Aric Chen, Es Devlin, Ms Nipa Doshi, Mr Ben Evans CBE, James Lingwood MBE, Professor Jeremy Myerson, Jonathan Reekie CBE, Dr Christopher Turner, Ms Suhair Khan, Sir John Sorrell CBE, Ms Marva Griffin Wilshire and Mr Waldick Jatoba.

About Chatham House
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent and world-leading policy institute. Founded in 1920, its mission is to help governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and sustainable world.

From its foundation in the aftermath of the First World War to the start of its second century in 2020, the story of Chatham House is one of bringing people together with a common purpose to help shape a safer and fairer world. Today, it also seeks to empower the next generation to take forward their own ideas for a better future. This partnership with the London Design Biennale – enabled by the Chatham House-SNF CoLab – is a major initiative in delivering these goals.

Chatham House Centenary 2020 Stamp






Chatham House Centenary:
Throughout our centenary year in 2020, Chatham House celebrates a century of influence, independent analysis and trusted dialogue with a number of exciting initiatives. This project is part of Chatham House’s CoLab initiative which is made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

A major part of Chatham House’s centenary, the CoLab enables the institute to take a more innovative approach to research by creating immersive experiences for audiences and ensuring Chatham House can continue to serve as a trusted hub for dialogue and a source of credible information, analysis and ideas on international affairs.