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V&A British Design 1948-2012

V&A entrance

The V&A on a windy Monday in June. I’m here to see the exhibition on British design 1948-2012. I have high hopes for it and at £12.00 for admission, fingers crossed the walk from Knightsbridge was worth it.

Starting off with the Festival of Britain, the exhibition tracks the the changing landscape of British design.

Festival of Britain posters

Milton Keynes – the place to live!

Something that particularly catches my eye is the habitat catalogue. The grid system with acid pinks and oranges and innocent styled illustration is quite lovely.

The T5 stacking chair by Rodney Kinsman at OMK design is sleek chrome and leather affair, with references back to art deco with its repeated rounded square back.

Seeing the patterns of the 50s and 60s in all their original vividness is uplifting. The 60s explored new concepts such as ‘knockdown’, ‘inflate’, ‘flat-pack’ and ‘throwaway’. The disposable consumer landscape reflected the youth-focused concept of ‘lifestyle’.

And into the anti-establishment room. With the introduction of Art schools and student protests such as the Hornsey Art School protest of 1968. And then we meet Punk, The Sex Pistols, safety pins, collage fanzines and cut-n-paste typeforms.

‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’

Late 1970s and 1980s Punk’s rough aesthetic extended into furniture and interiors. With it’s fascination in ruins and decay, visually extravagant projects, capturing the youth discontent and frustration with the economic recession. With Creative salvage a trend born out of the Punk aesthetic in mid 1980s.

Graphic design in the late 1970s reinvented itself. Factory records, founded by Tony Wilson and Peter Saville, slick post-industrial aesthetic had a powerful influence on graphic designers worldwide. In early 1980s designers in London were also pioneering a radical style language. Street aware fashion magazines such as FACE and i-D, combined provocative journalism and photography with experimental typefaces and layouts.

The sounds of Bowies Major Tom echo around the room, flagging the start of the focus on music. British art school graduates made a huge impact on an expanding music industry. British pop culture as it was becoming known, with artists such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles. From record sleeves to posters to stage costumes, the British rock bands of the 1970s benefited from collaborations with artists and designers associated with the avant-garde. The tongue logo designed by John Pashe who was inspired by Jagger’s pout of The Rolling Stones is instantly recognizable and a highly effective corporate logo.

Hot Licks Logo – The Rolling Stones

Photographers and models of the time influenced the wider culture and the age of celebrity and the pap was born. David Bailey and his contemporary Terence Donovan’s work marked a radical departure from studio fashion shoots. In Terence Donovan’s shoots for men’s magazine Man About Town he experimented with gritty urban backdrops and action poses.

And now I am confronted with the Jaguar E type in all it’s glory. The gritty urban slash and clash of the 1970s rock, a stark contrast to this beauty in gun metal grey. I’ll just stand here a minute, as I take a minute to gaze at its sleek lines and curvaceous sides. The rest of the room pales in comparison, even the film and detailed model of Concord can not compete. Saying that are some very lovely their abstract qualities and bright colours bringing a playful quality, introducing children to ideas of form colour and balance. They look pretty cool too.

Trendon Toys – Fish and Bird

The final enclosed darkened room I enter is a testament to British computer industry. From hardware to software. Over the last three decades Britain has produced some of the worlds most innovative and influential computer games. Elite, Wipeout, Lemmings and Grand Theft auto all get a mention, along with three versions of increasing graphic quality of the Tomb Raider Game.

Then I notice a corner, a small corner, a couple of screens and plaques, a few posters. This is the section focussed on animation, television advertising and advertising and design. I am a little let down by the small area, considering the blurb on the wall a tests to British advertising and brand consultancies being brand leaders since the 1960s, you’d think more consideration should be warranted? And at the very end the V&A logo, designed by Alan fletcher of pentagram, the orange logo by Wolff Olins and London 2012 Olympic games logo also by Wolff Olins are vinyled onto the wall. I must say I am slightly underwhelmed.

To the shop!