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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 1 (June-July, 1949)

Milner Gray

page 6

Milner Gray

Cruet set designed by Milner Gray

At least some interest in industrial design has been aroused in this country by the recent visit by Milner Gray. His visit was a short one—a fortnight—of which a week was spent in Auckland and a week in Wellington.

At each of these cities Milner Gray gave four lectures on different aspects of industrial design. His audience was small in number and consisted of those who had already had an interest in the subject which is as yet, perhaps, too new and unknown to be of interest to the general public. Through generosity of Milner Gray we are enabled to make use of his notes in the following articles on “The Industrial Design Profession in Great Britain”: “Design in Everyday Life”: “Packaging Design.”

Who Is Milner Gray?

Mr. Milner Gray, R.D.I., F.S.I.A., is a practising designer. He is a director of Design Research Unit, 37 Park Street, London, W.l., a cooperative partnership of architects, designers and engineers. He is a member of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, and President of the Society of Industrial Artists. During the war he was head of the Exhibitions Branch, Ministry of Information, which branch he was responsible for starting. He was chief designer of the “Design at Work” Exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, 1948.

Mr. Milner Gray's appointments include the following: Board of Trade representative on Governing Body Central School of Art, 1945; Member of Council Central Institute of Art and Design; Member Modern Architectural Research Group; Member of Packaging Advisory Committee Printing and Allied Trades Research Association; Principal Sir John Cass School of Art 1937–40; Visiting Lecturer Goldsmith's College, London University 1932–40; Chelsea School of Art, 1934–37; Reimann School of Art 1937–40; and on Board of Honorary Advisers, Royal College of Art 1939–40.

He has exhibited pottery and china at the Exhibition of British Industrial Art, Dorland Hall, 1933, pottery and textiles at the Exhibition of Contemporary Industrial Design at Dorland Hall, 1934, window display and package design at the Exhibition of British Art in Industry, Royal Academy 1935, package design at the Paris International Exhibition 1937, and at the International Exhibition of Packaging, Zurich, 1940, and in America.

He has been responsible for—

Industrial Designs including watch cases, silver and plated goods, Bristol “Wayfarer” passenger plane interior (with Misha Black), kitchen utensils and domestic equipment, domestic Hartley's labels designed by Milner Gray chairs, china tea services, earthenware tea and dinner services, improved taxicab for Council of Industrial Design.

Exhibitions and Displays including R.D.I. “Design at Work” Exhibition, Royal Academy, 1948; Stands at British Industries Fair, 1947–8.

Packaging Design

Symbols and Trade Marks for British Broadcasting Corporation; Ministry of Information (Royal Arms for use in Exhibitions); Ministry of Food (British Restaurant Symbol); Ministry of Agriculture (Symbol); Building Centre; etc.

Posters for Building Centre; London Passenger Transport Board; Ministry of Labour; Ministry of Information; etc.

We owe his visit to this country to the British Council.

Milner Gray's Broadcast Interview

On his visit to Australia the A.B.C. broadcast an interview with Milner Gray. As his answers to the questions contain many points of interest we print the interview below:

1. Question: Reason for this Australian visit.

Answer: I have come here at the invitation of the British Council to tell interested manufacturers and designers in the Commonwealth of Australia what we are doing in Great Britain to try to organize our industrial design resources and to improve the design of consumer goods.

2. Question: You are the President of the Society of Industrial Artists in Britain? What is the task of the Society?

page 7

Answer: The Society of Industrial Artists is the designers' professional association, as the Royal Institute of British Architects is for architects and the Royal College of Physicians for medical practitioners. The Society was founded in 1930, and formulates the codes and rules by which designers practise in Great Britain. Membership is a guarantee of professional competence and aesthetic ability. Members conform to a code of professional conduct no less rigorous than those codes which govern the conduct of other professions: they undertake work on terms which have been regularized and standardized.

3. Question: Has skilled technical design guidance improved the quality and quantity of British output?

Answer: Where design is being properly used it has helped and is helping the qualitative standard of goods. In collaboration with research departments it is a part of the design process to effect economies in production by keeping a constant watch on developments in materials and processes; as well as on the sales-appeal of consumer goods. Other things being equal, those firms with a sound design policy, well integrated with production, sales and finance policies —but not dominated by them—are playing an important part in building up British output.

Cruet, Hartley's labels, and packaging designs above by Milner Gray, R.D.J., F.S.I.A.

Cruet, Hartley's labels, and packaging designs above by Milner Gray, R.D.J., F.S.I.A.

4. Question: Why was Government assistance granted the Society?

Answer: Government support, but not financial assistance, is given to the professional association through the Council of Industrial Design. This Council was set up in 1944 by the President of the Board of Trade, because it was felt that design was a vital factor in our post-war trade. The Council is financed by the Government, and the annual report on its activities is made to Parliament. It is charged with the task of improving the standard of design in British industry by all practicable means. One of its main functions is to help industries to set up Design Centres which operate on a co-operative basis, supported by contributions from the manufacturers in each industry in addition to a grant from the Exchequer. The Council also acts as a centre of advice and information on all matters of industrial design to manufacturers, designers, Government Departments, and any other interested bodies. Good design is publicized by means of exhibitions, design weeks throughout the country, and lectures and visual aids in the schools and to specialized and general audiences.

5. Question: How are British manufacturers reacting to the encouragement of industrial design by the Government?

Answer: In spite of the present encouraging developments—and they are encouraging—it would be wrong for me to pretend to you that a Golden Age of Industrial Design had dawned in Creat Britain overnight. There is a clear gleam on the horizon—no more. The urgent need to increase our exports has focused attention on design as a sales factor of equal importance to the technical efficiency and sound workmanship of our manufacturers: and more and more British producers are recognizing that this design business is not just a stunt or a luxury, but a very necessary factor in making goods to sell in world markets, as well as to improve the amenities of the life of the people at home. But the industrial process cannot be speeded up beyond a certain point; however, I believe that the great Exhibition planned for 1951 will demonstrate the extent to which British manufacturers are now turning to the designer to help to improve the quality of their goods.

6. Question: Can you tell us something more about this Exhibition?

Answer: The Festival of Britain—as it is to be called—will be held in 1951 to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which the Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park. The main exhibition will be sited on a large area of the south bank of the Thames which was badly blitzed during the war and will be developed as a new civic centre to coincide with the centenary scheme. The Festival of Britain will be not only a shop window for British goods, but a festival of music, drama and the arts, and I hope that many Australians will be able to visit the Old Country, where we shall certainly do our best to give them the same generous welcome which I have been given here in Australia.

Photos reproduced by courtesy of the Council of Industrial Design