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Misha Black

(1910—1977) architect and industrial designer


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Industrial designer, architect, and educator Misha Black was born in Russia, moving to London when he was 18 months old. Despite a short period of study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and in Paris he was largely self-taught, beginning his professional career in graphic art and exhibition stand design. After forming Studio Z in 1930, in 1934 he joined the Bassett-Gray Group of Artists and Designers, one of the first multidisciplinary design consultancies in Britain. This became the Industrial Design Partnership (1935–40) which Black established with Walter Landor and Milner Gray. Work in the 1930s included exhibition design for the MARS (Modern Architectural Research Society) exhibition and as interior designer for the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. During the Second World War Black worked for the Ministry of Information and, with Milner Gray and Herbert Read, was a founder member of the Design Research Unit (DRU) established in 1943. He gained considerable critical attention as an architect-designer at the South Bank, London, site of the 1951 Festival of Britain. Black's work with the DRU led to design consultancy with a range of key clients including British Rail, London Transport, BOAC, and the Hong Kong Rapid Transport System. In 1959 he was appointed as Professor of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art, a highly influential role in design education that he held until retirement in 1975. This proved of seminal importance in British design education, bringing industrial and engineering design together and conferring them with academic status in a higher education sector largely dominated by the fine arts. He was extremely active in the promotion of the design profession on a wide number of fronts. This included membership of the Society of Industrial Artists (SIA, established 1930—see Chartered Society of Designers) of which he became president from 1954 to 1956, of the Council of Industrial Design (see Design Council) from 1955 to 1964 and of the Design and Industries Association (DIA). Black was also a founder member and later president (1959–61) of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) which first met in London in 1957, a member of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry from 1957 (master, 1973–4), and was knighted in 1972.

From A Dictionary of Modern Design in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.



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