David Sudlow and Simon Leach join forces to design the latest show at V&A Museum of Childhood

Photography by Phil Durrant

Unless you're a graphic designer or work in the field of set or exhibition design (which pretty much accounts for quite a lot of Creative Boom's audience), then you might not consider all the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the design behind a big show, say... like one at the V&A Museum of Childhood, perhaps. Manchester-based David Sudlow Designers and London's Simon Leach Design recently united to do just that – create this summer's major exhibition.

Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 – Today explores the influences which have helped forge Nordic design and examines how children have inspired some of the 20th century’s most progressive designs, architecture and literature, from BRIO to LEGO, Marimekko and the Moomins.

The exhibition borrows its title from the ground-breaking book, The Century of the Child, by Swedish social theorist Ellen Key, first published in 1900. She envisioned that during the 20th century, children would become the centre of adults' attention. Her ideas on encouraging children's creativity, education and rights have permeated Nordic design and shaped the content of the exhibition.

When it comes to its design, it is structured into four themes: Nordic values; Design for living; Creative freedom; and Eco-innovations. Highlights include a Finnish "baby box", furniture by Alvar Aalto, a miniature Puckelball pitch, printed textiles by Marimekko, BRIO and Lego activity tables and a recreation of an outdoor storytelling hut based on an original design by Norwegian architects Haugen/ Zohar.

"We worked closely with the museum’s curatorial and interpretation teams to create a design that strikes a balance between exhibition and activity, hands-on and hands-off," explains David. "The design integrates a colourful graphic identity into a minimal 'white walls and plywood' design, with a palette of playful animal icons to identify each Nordic country and each exhibition theme.

"The content of the exhibition and ethos of the narrative had a direct influence on our design approach. The sense of learning through play and discovery through engagement underpins the design."

Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 – Today runs until 2 September 2018 at V&A Museum of Childhood, London.

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant

Photography by Phil Durrant