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California: Designing Freedom

“Designed in California” is the new “Made in Italy”. While California’s mid-century modernism is well documented, this is the first exhibition to examine its current global reach. Picking up the story in the 1960s, the exhibition charts the journey from the counterculture to Silicon Valley’s tech culture.


About the exhibition

How did California come to have such a powerful influence on contemporary design? California: Designing Freedom explores how the ideals of the 1960s counterculture morphed into the tech culture of Silicon Valley, and how ‘Designed in California’ became a global phenomenon.

The central premise is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to surfboards and iPhones. This ambitious survey brings together political posters and portable devices, but also looks beyond hardware to explore how user interface designers in the San Francisco Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences. By turns empowering, addictive and troubling, Californian products have affected our lives to such an extent that in some ways we are all now Californians.

"With some 300 items on display, there are plenty of unusual artefacts to relish" - The Times ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"A slice of California cool" "This show gets a thumbs up from us" - The Londonist ⭐⭐⭐⭐

"A hugely ambitious celebration of the world’s design capital...a must-see" - City AM ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Booking information

Adult £16
Student/concession £12
Educational group booking price: £3-£7 per student (groups of 10 or more)
Family (1 adult + 3 children) £24
Family (2 adults + 3 children) £36
Child (6 - 15 years) £8
Children under 6 years free
Members free

10% discount is applied when booking 10 or more tickets online. Alternatively, please contact the Bookings Office (Mon - Fri 10;00 to 17:00) on +44 20 3862 5937 or +44 20 3862 5900.

*Concession tickets include seniors (over 60 years), disabled people and job seekers.

Explore the exhibition


This section of the exhibition resolves around freedom of movement and focuses on mobility, from navigation to portability and exploration.


This section explores how California has pioneered new ways of looking at the world, from acid trips to virtual reality.


California has its own history of enabling freedom of expression, from new graphic languages to social media. This section explores the state’s culture of communication through posters, magazines and online platforms.


Perhaps no place has done more to democratize access to industrial technology than California. This section features tools that have made ‘making’ easier and more accessible,


From hippy communes to Facebook, this section examines tools that enable communities both on the ground and online.


In conversation with

Justin McGuirk, Chief Curator of the Design Museum speaks to Google's Head of Design, Matias Duarte about California's contribution to technology and innovation.

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