Design Museum

Free

The Design 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. The museum also hosts a programme of exhibits featuring the work of leading designers and also exhibitions centred around popular culture and the design of everyday objects.

Inside the Design Museum, near Holland Park in Kensington. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media Pty Ltd)Inside the Design Museum, near Holland Park in Kensington. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media)

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 at the Design Museum

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

Skateboard
The Skateboard exhibition (until 2 June 2024) chronicles the evolution of the skateboard from the 1950s to the present day including the evolution of the design of skateboards and skateboard culture. £16.

Enzo Mari
This exhibition (until 8 September 2024) pays tribute to the life and contributions of Enzo Mari, one of the greatest designers of the 20th century. The retrospective, originally presented by Triennale Milano in 2020, spans 60 years and showcases Mari’s diverse projects, including furniture, children’s books, games and conceptual installations. A parallel display features commissioned tributes by contemporary artists, providing deeper insights into Mari’s research process and his enduring impact on design and social responsibility. £18–20.

Barbie®: The Exhibition
This exhibition (5 July 2024–23 February 2025) delves into the legacy initiated in 1959 by Ruth Handler for her daughter, Barbara. Focused on design elements, the showcase examines Barbie’s narrative through fashion, architecture, furniture and vehicle design. In collaboration with Mattel Inc., the exhibition gains exclusive access to the vast Barbie archives in California, featuring rare items alongside key loans and acquisitions to trace the brand’s evolution over the past 65 years.

The World of Tim Burton
Tim Burton, known for his unique aesthetic, is the focus of a major exhibition (25 October 2024–21 April 2025) showcasing his work across various media. Featuring illustrations, paintings and sculptures, visitors will explore Burton’s creative evolution and see how this has influenced his cinematic work. Drawn from his archive, the exhibition spans his artistic journey from childhood to the present day, highlighting recurring themes in his characters and worlds. This UK-exclusive display concludes a decade-long world tour, offering a comprehensive insight into Burton’s imaginative universe.

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.

The Design Museum is on High Street Kensington near Holland Park. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media Pty Ltd)
The Design Museum is on High Street Kensington near Holland Park. (Photo © 2024 Rover Media)

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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