Design is a part of life, and good design adds to the quality of our lives in a multitude of ways. Echoing Michael’s point in his road sign blog on Monday, sometimes the greatest success for a design is how little we notice it. Great design can allow us to focus on what we are doing, rather than how we are doing it – making activities a pleasure rather than a chore.
The London Design Museum is presently exhibiting the UK’s first retrospective of Kenneth Grange’s work, Making Britain Modern - a master class in design that combines form and function. Described as “Britain’s leading product designer” Grange has spent the last fifty years shaping the world around us, from bus shelters to food mixers, Kodak cameras to black cabs.
It was great to see the work of an icon collected, with such insight into his methodology – a particular revelation was his lateral thinking/craftiness when faced with what seemed like an impossible deadline. Given just a few days to create a model of a food processor, Grange slashed his production time by only creating half of the model and presenting it fixed to a mirror, thus giving the impression of the completed article. I doff my cap sir!
All this would have made for an interesting visit for design enthusiasts, but it would seem the Design Museum has set its sites a little higher. Our Friday night tickets (a snip at £7 each) opened a veritable banquet of interactive entertainment. And when I say interactive, I mean hands on, glue on your sleeves, icing in your hair interactive. Visitors got stuck into cupcake decorating, mask making, an alternative tailoring table, and probably more besides that I didn’t spot. Add to that a generous supply of fancy 70’s nibbles (very on brand for the exhibition) an orchestra, and even a secret bar, and you’re talking about a seriously unserious evening.
The absolute highlight for me though was the invitation to commission a unique piece of art, inspired by something at the exhibition, and created by a pair illustrators shipped in specially for the evening. We picked “Camera Obscura” as the title, one of Grange’s Kodak cameras as the object, and discovering it in the pocket of a second hand coat, with a role of film featuring 50’s shots of London and Moscow. Our fantastic illustrator, Hannah Richards from Concept Lounge, stepped straight in from her commute, and knocked us up our very own original works. And that’s something you don’t get from most exhibitions.