Design Research Unit

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(established 1943)

The Design Research Unit (DRU) was one of the first generation of British design consultancies that sought to offer a wide range of specialist services covering the design spectrum. In the wake of discussions with Marcus Bramwell, managing director of Stuart's Advertising Agency, it was established in 1943 by Herbert Read in offices in Knightsbridge, London. It emerged as an increasingly significant design consultancy in the years following the Second World War, forging links between design and industry and gaining many prestigious commissions for the designers working under its umbrella. Two of the DRU's more important early members were Misha Black and Milner Gray, both of whom had been involved with the Industrial Design Partnership of 1935, itself a reformation of an earlier pioneering consultancy, the Bassett‐Gray Group of Artists and Writers. Other associates included the designer Norbert Dutton, the architects Frederick Gibberd and Sadie Speight, and the structural engineer Felix Samuely. The DRU made important contributions to the Britain Can Make It Exhibition (BCMI) of 1946 and the Festival of Britain of 1951 and continued to cater for a wide range of commissions embracing specialisms such as engineering and product design, interior design, and corporate identity. At BCMI the DRU designed the Quiz Machines that sought to gauge public taste as well as the highly didactic ‘What Industrial Design Means’ display (by Black, Bronek Katz, and R. Vaughan). Key DRU commissions included the 1954 Electricity Board Showrooms, by Black, Gibson, and H. Diamond, the BOAC engineering hall at London Airport (Heathrow) by Black, Kenneth Bayes, and BOAC staff from 1951 to 1955, and a number of interiors for the P&O Orient Line's new liner Oriana by Black and Bayes in 1959. Other companies for whom DRU worked included Ilford, Courage, Dunlop, London Transport, and British Railways, including the sleek D2000 locomotive by Black and Beresford Evans.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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