Council for Art and Industry

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(1934 to early 1940s)

Announced in the House of Commons in late 1933, the Council for Art and Industry (CAI) was established in response to the 1932 Gorell Committee's findings about the economic implications of the lack of a British governmental policy on design. Commencing work in January 1934 under the chairmanship of Frank Pick and financed by the Board of Trade, the CAI had a membership of 27, representing the business, manufacturing, retailing, and design communities. The organization, like many other design reform agencies at home and abroad, sought to improve the public's understanding of the social, cultural, and aesthetic benefits of design, to enhance standards of design education, and to influence manufacturers as to the economic advantages that would accrue from investment in design. Its major legacy lay in a series of reports that were published from 1935 onwards, commencing with Education for the Consumer in 1935, followed by Design and the Designer in Industry (1937) and The Working Class Home (1937). The former revealed the generally low standing, poor pay, and often inappropriate training of designers in manufacturing industry, whilst the latter—despite its original intentions to the contrary—revealed how difficult it was for families with average incomes to equip their homes with well‐designed goods at prices they could afford. The Council came in for criticism from many quarters, not least in relation to the display of British goods at the Paris Exposition des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne of 1937. For the first time British manufacturers were unable to buy space and the selection was entirely down to the CAI, thus making it vulnerable to criticism on a number of fronts, not least because the general thrust of the displays appeared to be centred on sport, leisure, and cultural heritage rather than the Exposition's main theme. Manufacturing industry was generally resistant to the organization's design promotional agenda as it viewed the CAI as an elitist metropolitan body that had little real knowledge of the difficult working realities of manufacturing in the provinces.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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