Design Museum

Free

This inspiring museum has recently moved to Kensington from its former home by the riverfront near Tower Bridge.

The museum features exhibits of architecture, fashion and graphic and industrial design which essentially means displays of everyday items that feature outstanding design. Sure you could see the same thing for free in a department store, but the Design Museum has carefully amassed a collection that includes everything from furniture to can openers and vacuum cleaners. There is also a programme of exhibits featuring the work of leading designers.

Design Museum in Kensington, London (Photo: Harry Wood [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)
Design Museum in Kensington, London (Photo: Harry Wood [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons)

What to see in the Design Museum

Designer Maker User is the museum’s permanent exhibition, which is divided into three galleries: Designer, Maker and User.

The Designer gallery focuses on the thought process behind successful design and the museum’s exhibits include the traffic light designed by David Mellor, British road signs designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert and PriestmanGoode’s design for the new tube trains.

The Maker gallery illustrates the thought that designers put into the manufacturing process. This gallery features the Model T Ford, Thonet bentwood cafe chairs and the 2012 Olympic torch as well as everyday objects like tennis balls.

The User gallery features iconic objects that have defined everyday life during the last 100 years including the Vespa scooter, the Olivetti Valentine typewriter, the Braun record player, the Sony Walkman and the Apple iPhone.

Temporary exhibitions

The museum also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924–Today
Objects of Desire (until 19 February 2023) is an exhibition run in conjunction with the Vitra Design Museum, which shows how Surrealism has influenced design during the last 100 years. The exhibition includes works by Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Ray Eames and Man Ray. £16.80.

Weird Sensations Good: The World of ASMR
This exhibition (until 10 April 2023) features an acoustically tuned environment that allows you to experience the calming sensations of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) in a shared space. Mon–Fri £9.50, Sat–Sun £10.90.

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense
This exhibition (7 April 2023–30 July 2023) showcases Ai Weiwei’s recent artworks including commissioned works.

The Offbeat Sari
This exhibition (19 May 2023–17 September 2023) celebrates the modern sari and its place in urban Indian society.

Skateboard
The Skateboard exhibition (opens 20 October 2023) chronicles the evolution of the skateboard from the 1950s to the present day including the evolution of the design of skateboards and skateboard culture.

Visiting the Design Museum

The Design Museum is located in the former Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. The closest tube station is High Street Kensington, which is an eight-minute walk away. Bus routes 9, 10, 27, 28, 49 and C1 also stop outside the museum.

Admission is free for the Designer Maker User permanent exhibition, but admission charges apply to many of the museum’s temporary exhibitions.

The entire museum is wheelchair accessible. Multisensory tours are available for blind and visually-impaired visitors as well as British Sign Language (BSL) tours for deaf visitors.

Nearby attractions include Holland Park and Kensington Palace, both within a 20-minute walk from the museum. The South Kensington Museum precinct (which includes the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum) is around a half-hour walk from the Design Museum.

Most visitors spend 1–2 hours visiting the Design Museum.

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