Royal Designers for Industry & Britain Can Make It, 1946

Royal Designers for Industry and the Britain Can Make It Exhibition, London, 1946

This resource lists those RDIs whose work was included in the Britain Can Make It Exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1946.

Subtitled ‘Good design – and good business’ the Britain Can Make It exhibition was the first public promotion organized by the newly established Council of Industrial Design. The exhibition, which attracted 1,432,369 visitors over a fourteen-week period, aimed to ‘promote by all practical means the improvements of design in products of British Industry’ in post-war Britain.

The public were particularly interested in the ‘Furnished Rooms Section’ by leading designers who had responded to the call for a variety of furnished living environments for fictitious families drawn from a range of occupations, income levels, ages and family sizes.

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has promoted good design from its foundation in 1754. The year after the exhibition of British Art in Industry, which it organized with the Royal Academy in 1935, the RSA instituted the distinction of Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) to enhance the status of designers and recognize the importance of their work. In 1936, it was agreed that no more than thirty designers could hold this distinction at any one time. This number has risen to a maximum of 200 designers covering a wide and diverse range of design disciplines. Non-British resident designers are appointed Honorary RDIs. Every two years they elect a Master from their number to lead the Faculty in promoting and encouraging design education and skills. Sixteen of the RDIs represented at Britain Can Make It served as Masters of the RDI Faculty.

For each designer we have identified works mentioned in the exhibition catalogue, which is now available online. We have also included links to the prototype resource Exploring British Design which reveals professional connections and other archival resources relating to each RDI.

A project of the William Shipley Group for RSA History and the University of Brighton Design Archives.

Information for these biographies has been drawn from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, obituaries from The Times and other publications, biographies and autobiographies, and the RSA Journal which is now available in JStor.

Research and texts: Susan Bennett MA (Honorary Fellow)

Compiled by: Lucy Hermann, Sirpa Kutilainen and Barbara Taylor


Image: Members of the public queue to gain entry to the “Britain Can Make It” Exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1946.  


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Barbara Taylor • June 6, 2016

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