The Intelligent Optimist




10am - 6pm, Mon to Fri; 12pm - 5pm, Sat, Sun; Mon from 3pm closed for a private event)

Free Event


Central Saint Martins presents The Intelligent Optimist, an exhibition and events programme exploring various futures for design. Future Gazers, Material Explorers, Social Agents and The Fixers; all use creative practices and critical intelligence to propose provocative and hopeful new perspectives.

The Intelligent Optimist exhibition goes to the heart of everything we do at Central Saint Martins. The work of our students is almost by default optimistic – why design the world as a worse place? – and is always shot through with a canny intelligence. This intelligence takes multiple forms: the rigour of traditional inquiry, emotional intelligence of empathy, tacit intelligence built through experience, haptic intelligence where hand meets mind, and so on. In all cases the intelligence is deployed in a productive manner to transform the status quo or to imagine new and better futures.

Last year’s highly acclaimed Restless Futures exhibition at CSM explored the societal issues that designers are engaged with; this year’s exhibition and events programme presents the types of designer that are needed to achieve positive change within those issues: Future Gazers, Material Explorers, Social Agents, and The Fixers.

The Intelligent Optimist has never been needed more than in the current era of political and social despondency. We are all looking for alternative visions, but not naively hopeful ones. In their various combinations of wit, rigour, lateral thinking, sensuousness, ingenuity, social engagement and all round intelligence, these Central Saint Martins graduates provide a brilliant riposte to the novelist Howard Jacobson’s provocation that he “has never met an intelligent optimist.”

Alongside the exhibition featuring over 50 key recent CSM design graduates, the Lethaby Gallery will host The Intelligent Optimist events programme, a week-long series of events by the exhibitors including talks, demos and workshops. Meet the designers of the future, and get fascinating insights into the concepts behind their work and how they were made. All events are free but must be booked in advance via Eventbrite. For further information and to book click on the Eventbrite link in the links section.

Lethaby Gallery & Crossing Windows Galleries, Central Saint Martins
19 Sep – 17 Oct 2015

Press Jo Ortmans

We would like to thank our sponsors Farrow&Ball, LAB Design, GF Smith and the UAL University of the Arts London Postgraduate Community.

The Intelligent Optimist catalogue is available electronically via and in print for £5 in the CSM Lethaby Gallery.

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