Design Council Slide Collection: an online guide to the resource

Dr Simon Ford and John Davis - Manchester Metropolitan University

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Gordon Russell

In 1947 the CoID's first Director, S. C. Leslie, was succeeded by the furniture designer and manufacturer Gordon Russell. A prominent member of the DIA, Russell had played a key part in the government's wartime Utility Scheme. This had placed strict controls on the design of furniture and other items. Shortly after becoming Director Russell restructured the CoID into two main groupings of staff, based on the principle of supply and demand: the Industrial Division aimed to liaise with British manufacturers in order to raise the standard of design in the goods they produced , whilst the Information Division worked to increase the appetite for 'good design' among consumers.

Display on ceramic glazes and decoration from a portable 'box' exhibition, 1953Display on ceramic glazes and decoration from a portable 'box' exhibition, 1953

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Two teenage boys looking at a display on leather in a portable 'box' exhibition, 1953Two teenage boys looking at a display on leather in a portable 'box' exhibition, 1953

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Display on metal joining techniques in a portable 'box' exhibition, c.1953Display on metal joining techniques in a portable 'box' exhibition, c.1953

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Initially, the Information Division concentrated on producing educational materials, and utilised a wide range of media including exhibitions, lectures, films, filmstrips and publications to promote a greater public understanding of design. It also reached a wider audience by collaborating with newspapers and women's magazines in the publication of feature articles, and by occasionally working with the BBC on programmes about design. From 1949 the CoID published its own monthly magazine Design which, although aimed mainly at manufacturers and designers, gained a wider readership.

Interior view of dining room in the show house at the Midlands Ideal Home Exhibition, 1952Interior view of dining room in the show house at the Midlands Ideal Home Exhibition, 1952

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Part of a room within a house, Ideal Home exhibition, London, 1952Part of a room within a house, Ideal Home Exhibition, London, 1952

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Living-dining room of house at the Ideal Home Exhibition, 1952Living-dining room of house at the Ideal Home Exhibition, 1952

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In an important policy development that took place shortly after Russell's appointment, the Information Division took steps to enlist the co-operation of the retail sector in its crusade for 'good design'. As intermediaries between manufacturers and consumers, retailers were seen as capable of influencing both. Conferences and courses were organised and a series of 'Design Weeks' were held in towns and cities around the country. These included a mobile exhibition that was complemented by displays in participating local shops.

In addition, the CoID also frequently collaborated with sympathetic retailers in the furnishing of show houses. The early years of Russell's directorship were, however, dominated by another major public project, the 1951 Festival of Britain.

 

 

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