Friday, July 22, 2011

Making Britain Modern

Parking meter, 1958 (for Venner)

        LONDON.- Kenneth Grange is Britain’s leading product designer, his prolific career spans over 50 years and he is responsible for designing some of the most iconic and familiar products and appliances that shape our daily lives. Kodak cameras, the silhouette for the Intercity 125 train, Kenwood food mixers, Parker pens, and the re-design of the London Taxi Cab are just some of his well-known designs. This exhibition is Kenneth Grange’s first UK retrospective and it will celebrate his work, his design journey and the role he has played in making Britain modern. During the 1960s and 70s Grange designed a considerable number of domestic products.

London taxi-cab Model TX1, 1998

        The Kenwood Chef was a revelation in home baking and it became a standard aesthetic for food mixers. Razors for Wilkinson Sword, cigarette lighters for Ronson, Irons for Morphy Richards, Pens for Parker, each of his designs supported new materials and advances in technology. This was a time when Britain led the way with its strong manufacturing base and renewed vigour for design, a time for Britain to embrace the future. In 1972 Grange, together with Alan Fletcher, Theo Crosby, Colin Forbes and Mervyn Kurlansky established Pentagram, a world renowned multi-disciplinary design consultancy.

Wilkinson Sword Razor, 1991

        In 1968 Grange designed the iconic exterior and interior layout for the High Speed Intercity 125 train for British Rail. Unveiled in 1976, the Intercity’s distinctive and futuristic aerodynamic cone nose caught the mood of the time and set the standard for high-speed train design still referenced today. Born in 1929 Grange attended Willesden School of Art, London, his National Service was spent as a technical illustrator for the Royal Engineers.

Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Signature Loudspeakers, 1975

        In 1951 whilst working as an architect’s assistant Grange contributed to the Sports and Home pavilions for the Festival of Britain. In 1958 Grange designed the interiors for the Kodak Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair and so began the start of a successful partnership which would lead to Grange designing his first camera for Kodak the 44A in 1959. Grange also developed the Kodak instamatic camera in 1968, followed by the Kodak Pocket Instamatic in 1972, the start of a new generation of portable, inexpensive cameras. Influenced by the form and function of Scandinavian, German and Italian design, Grange’s elegant and functional designs embraced a contemporary aesthetic, combining a unique style and appreciation of domestic values, creating products that were not only a commercial success but also a joy to use.

British Rail Intercity 125 Train, 1976

        More recently, in the 1990s, Grange has produced distinctive designs that have become part of our landscape, from the re-design of the London black cab, the Taxi TX1 in 1998, to the Adshel bus shelters of 1993 and the Rural Post box for Royal Mail in 1998, these familiar designs shape our streetscape and continue Grange’s work in street design that started with his parking meter for Venner in 1958. Today Grange continues to work with British companies including Anglepoise, furniture designer Hitch Mylius and fashion designer Margaret Howell.

Kodak Istamatic camera, 1970

        Still at the centre of the design community, he was made a Royal Designer for Industry in 1969, awarded a CBE in 1984, has an impressive five honorary doctorates and continues toteach and offer his support and experience to the next generation ofdesigners at the Royal College of Art. The exhibition will be designed by James Irvine and Jasper Morrison with graphics by Graphic Thought Facility.

RECENT WORK: One of Grange's many lamp designs for Anglepoise, where he serves as the company's design director

Note:  I felt foolish yesterday when I discovered that I didn't know anything about Kenneth Grange, Britain's leading industrial designer, whose career is being celebrated this month in a London museum retrospective at the Design Museum.  A fascinating man and a prodigious, prolific creator, Grange's Making Britain Modern book is being published in paperback this summer.  Whenever I travel to Britain, I notice that the "shapes of things" are different there than they are in the US.  Like most people, I tend to attribute this to a general, but undefinable, difference in cultural aesthetics that may have reached its apotheosis in the conception and design of Daleks and composition and recording of the original Doctor Who theme. (Click link if desired.)  It's good finally to have a more precise fix on things. And I would really like to acquire one of those Margaret Howell workshirts pictured at the bottom of this post.  The press release above was re-posted from, an excellent online newspaper covering the world art scene.  The Kenneth Grange retrospective will be on view through October 30.

Adshell bench, 1972

 Workshirt for Margaret Howell, 2010

Kenneth Grange Knighted!! (Link) (1/13/13)



  1. That is not a photo of a Wilkinson Sword retractor.....

    1. Is the silver-colored one the Royale, then, and are red razors (recumbent) the Retractors? Please advise and thank you for your note. Curtis