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Yinka Ilori: "My mission is all about creating moments of joy in public spaces"

05 October 2023

© Creative Courts - Yinka Ilori - Matt Alexander
Designer Yinka Ilori is one of the first generation beacons* of Dutch Design Week (DDW). Yinka Ilori is a multi-disciplinary artist and designer whose bold visual language draws on his British-Nigerian heritage to convey new narratives through contemporary design.

Illori: “My work is characterised by my unique approach to storytelling and my belief in the power of design to bring people together. It's an exploration of my heritage, which, although I was born in London, has had a profound influence on my creative journey. Growing up in the vibrant North London community, I've been immersed in a culture of free and open self-expression, which has deeply informed my work.”

© Love Always Wins Mural - Harrow Council - Yinka Ilori - Andy Stagg

“I am incredibly proud of my public commission, "Happy Street" in Battersea. This project allowed me to interact with the local community, especially with young families and children during the development process. The installation came at a period of significant development and transformation in Battersea. What makes it truly exceptional is its profound impact on the community, fostering a sense of ownership and belonging for local residents. Witnessing how people use and appreciate this space today continues to be an incredible experience. I still receive photos and messages from people in the area about how they have been positively impacted by this installation, as well as how it has changed the way others view their neighbourhood. "Happy Street" was also my first permanent public commission, which was a really significant moment in my career.” 

“My design vision has been shaped by my experiences, upbringing, and heritage. Growing up in North London had an incredibly significant impact on the way I view architecture and design, influencing what I believe design should convey. For example, how I view playgrounds has been shaped by my upbringing. I see them as spaces for connection, celebration, and creating stories and memories. My own childhood experiences at my estate playground have shaped my view of public spaces and what they should offer to people.”

“My own childhood experiences at my estate playground have shaped my view of public spaces and what they should offer to people: spaces for connection, celebration and creating stories and memories.”

“My British-Nigerian heritage, the wisdom passed down through generations, my use of vibrant colours, and my passion for storytelling have all been a major part of the way I visualise and contextualise narratives in my work. These influences are central to how I aim to encourage people to interact with spaces. I want people to forge deeper connections through spaces and environments.”

© Colour Palace - East Dulwich Picture Gallery - Yinka Ilori - Andy Stagg

“My mission is all about creating moments of joy in public spaces and instilling a sense of belonging and ownership in people. I measure my success through the feedback I get from my audience who tell me they feel that spark of joy or a renewed sense of hope. It's also about witnessing first hand how people interact with my work, seeing how it becomes a meaningful part of their lives. That's when I know I've succeeded.”

“My mission is all about creating moments of joy in public spaces. I measure my success by how people interact with my work, seeing how it becomes a meaningful part of their lives.”

© Creative Courts - Yinka Ilori - Matt Alexander

“The next generation of designers need to challenge how we live and how people engage with public spaces. They need to continue to tell compelling narratives that enable people to connect on multiple levels. They also need to keep design evolving and becoming truly representative. We must embrace a diverse range of voices, ensuring design grows in a way that reflects the wider population.”

“POoR Collective is a good example of this. POoR Collective was founded by architects Shawn Adams, Larry Botchway and Ben Spry, and accountant Matt Harvey-Agyemang. They are a social enterprise that advocates for the voices of young people and underrepresented groups by including them in the design process.

They have approached the industry with incredible bravery as well as dedication to engaging with communities. Their works have enabled new voices to be recognised and stories to be told in the public realm. Their projects across design and architecture bring new perspectives to public spaces and they're challenging the status quo with a commitment to inclusivity in our built environment.”

“Being part of DDW beacons is an incredible honour, and I'm excited about the opportunity to start fresh conversations around design alongside two other incredible industry peers. I'm looking forward to seeing where our collective creativity and expertise will take us in thinking about the industry and how we continue to move the industry forward.”

Talk – Design Impact by Yinka Ilori

Curious to know more about Yinka Illori? In a conversational format, Yinka Ilori will speak with Dutch moderator Marsha Simon as part of "The Elephant in the Room" showcase about the social and environmental impact designers have when making design decisions. 

Date Sunday, 22 October 2023
Location The Social Hub (Stationsweg 1, 5611 AA Eindhoven)

10:00 – 10:30 Walk-in breakfast
10:30 – 11:15 Talk by Yinka Ilori
11:30               End

Please note: spots are limited. Make sure to RSVP in advance!

*Whereas Dutch Design Week (DDW) used to appoint two or three ambassadors each year until last year, we are now exploring a different format. This year, Dutch Design Week invites three designers to serve as beacons. Leading designers, pioneers in their field. These trailblazers serve as kinds of landmarks in the turbulent world of design and are seen as guiding lights for fellow designers, partners, and DDW visitors.

We aim to build on the knowledge, experience and expertise of these beacons to deepen the dialogue within the design field. This year, we will explore together what form(s) this can take, hopefully resulting in a valuable, sustainable connection.