Stories of Creative Inspiration: ‘Yinka Ilori: Parables for Happiness’  

Hannah Ginno

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By learning more about diverse works of art, history, and culture we believe our team can better stimulate their creativity and spark new ideas for our clients. NBU’s designer Hannah Ginno details her recent visit to the London Design Museum and thinks about how B2B companies can create more fulfilling event experiences.  

The Design Museum’s second floor balcony is currently packed full of colour and pattern, recognisable as the work of Yinka Ilori.  

Yinka Ilori is a multi-disciplinary artist, heavily inspired both by his British-Nigerian heritage and his fascination with culture.  

He is well-known for his obsession with colour, specifically how it triggers memory, relates to culture, and aids in the release of personal expression. These three main points are repeated throughout the exhibition. The viewer is guided around the four walls of the building, packed with rich art and design from the top of the staircase.  

Given how much textiles influence Ilori’s work, it’s refreshing to see genuine connections made between them and Ilori’s own family and culture. 

This is evident in an introductory piece, which features a photograph of Ilori’s Grandmother, dressed in rich fabrics and smiling brightly. A nearby caption referred to her as “the real queen of colour,” a touching dedication given Ilori’s obsession with colour.  

Following that is a selection of textiles each with its own patterns and stories which help to inform Ilori’s own diasporic designs in furniture, painting, and public spaces. 

Many of the items on display, some by unknown authors, have inspired Ilori’s practise. Vinyls, magazines, fabrics, and even a Djembe drum are among them. The drum, in fact, was a favourite of the school children who visited the Museum at the time.  

What I liked best was how the beat echoed throughout the atrium with each child who discovered the Djembe and began playing, adding to the experience and ‘play’ nature of Ilori’s exhibition. 

Ilori places a high value on the concept of play especially during the formative years when ‘storytelling’ can reveal the greatest ideas and adventures.  

Recognising the significance of this may explain his work in shared spaces (e.g., Flamboyance of Flamingo Playground) in bringing joy to communities.  

I was particularly taken with ‘Colour Palace,’ built for the 2019 Dulwich Pavilion because of its thoughtful repurposing of the space.  

Ilori’s emphasis on community and culture is not superficial; after deconstructing the wooden pavilion, the bright slabs were cut to size and distributed to local schools. These were delivered with specially designed flat-pack instructions so that children could build their own planters allowing the story to live on in these public spaces. 

It’s refreshing to see artists not only considering the value of community but also their responsibility in supporting the efforts of sustainable practice. 

There are several great exhibits currently on display at The Design Museum, but I fully recommend spending some time on the second floor with Yinka Ilori’s Parables of Happiness.  

What can businesses learn from this exhibition?  

Hosting a live event can be incredibly valuable for any organisation looking to develop brand, reputation and relationships.  

Ilori’s ability to bring in a variety of multimedia features ultimately all adds up to an incredibly compelling exhibition and for businesses to succeed in hosting events, it’s worth considering what factors make a great event.  

Although this is an exhibition at a museum, it is a celebration of work, and any industry or company event should be similar.  

Incorporating well thought out multimedia elements can transform the audience from attendees into participants – engaging with them more effectively than just a PowerPoint presentation and a speech. 

For example, the design museum collaborated with Ilori on a Spotify playlist specifically for the event – perhaps if you’re a B2B music software provider you can setup a collaborative playlist asking each attendee to suggest one song? 

Give attendees a true sense of your company’s culture through the magic of multimedia and leave them wanting to learn more or, better yet, collaborate. 

Bring colour, bring technology, bring action!