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Design Council


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(established 1944)

Originally founded as the Council of Industrial Design (COID) under the British Board of Trade in 1944, this body was perhaps the world's most influential state‐funded design promotion organization of the second half of the 20th century. It also influenced the establishment of many similar bodies in Europe, the Far East, and Australia. In its formative years the COID was seen as an important propagandist in Britain's post‐Second World War efforts to penetrate overseas markets with well‐designed goods. On founding its chief aims were to promote ‘Good Design’ in British industry and to disseminate design advice and information to manufacturers, government departments, and others. It was also charged with the organization of design exhibitions, advice on design education and training, and the schooling of the public in the social and aesthetic benefits of well‐designed goods.

The COID's first major project was the mounting in central London of the 1946 Britain Can Make It (BCMI) exhibition, designed by James Gardner and architect Basil Spence. In addition to its propagandist role in relation to manufacturers and consumers BCMI was also planned as a shop window for British industrial design in the market places of the world. It was visited by 1,432,369 visitors and sought to educate the public through such displays as Misha Black's ‘What Industrial Design Means’ and the holding of a Design Quiz which gave visitors the chance to involve themselves with the precepts of ‘Good Design’. There were also all kinds of room settings to interest the public in the possibilities of a well‐designed post‐war world, an outlook reinforced in succeeding years by the furnishing of show houses around Britain. In the following year the COID mounted an Enterprise Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh. Other activities initiated by the COID in the 1940s included a series of ‘Design Weeks’ around Britain, consisting of exhibitions, lectures, conferences, and discussions and also put together educational packages with wall charts and other visual material for distribution in schools. Training courses were mounted for retailers, buyers, and others involved in the distribution of design and, in 1949, the COID's major propagandist magazine, Design, was launched. Another major exhibition initiative in which the COID played a chief role was the Festival of Britain of 1951. Originally conceived as an international exhibition, the Festival was downgraded to a national exhibition with major design displays on the South Bank, London, as well as the Exhibition of Industrial Power in Glasgow and the Ulster Farm and Factory Exhibition in Belfast. A Land Travelling Exhibition, with an emphasis on industrial design and production techniques, toured many major industrial cities whilst a Sea Travelling Exhibition toured ten major British ports. On the South Bank, the COID was responsible for selecting all of the industrially produced goods on site. The public could see many aspects of design relating to the home in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion, where many interior settings were on display. At the Live Architecture exhibition in East London they could also view a show house, a primary school, and shopping centre. For much of the period the Festival Pattern Group was coordinated by the COID's Industrial Officer, Mark Hartland Thomas. It sought to use crystallographic diagrams as the basis for contemporary surface patterns for a wide range of design media including textiles, ceramics, tableware, glass, paper, and furniture. Twenty‐six manufacturers participated in the scheme including Josiah Wedgwood, Chance Brothers, Goodearl Brothers, Spicers, and Warerite. Central to the COID's strategy of the 1950s was the establishment of the Design Centre in the Haymarket, London, in 1956. A Scottish Design Centre was set up in the following year.

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Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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