Abstract: Inscribing Design on the Nation: The British Council of Industrial Design and Its Early Public

Lesley Whitworth


In the waning moments of World War II, Britain's coalition government signalled its intention to create a Council of Industrial Design to "promote by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry." Conceived to counter the economic threat from competitor nations, the Council also embraced a social agenda, asserting that "lifting the quality of objects of common use in the hands and the homes of British people is a great objective in itself."Commentators have been critical of the naïveté of Council initiatives, but this paper will argue that the transformation of the standard of British manufactured goods, and the enhancement of the quality of life of British citizens, were valid objectives in the vacuum left by the cessation of hostilities. The Council's personnel included energetic individuals drawn from key roles in business, who had typically played a role in the expanded bureaucracy of the wartime state. Attuned to the public relations needs of the new organization, and convinced of the possibility of re-orienting the country's manufacturers, the Council offered consumers a recognizable role in the reproduction of national identity.

BEH On-Line Paper