Stephen Boyd Davis: 4194A

This slide from the Festival Pattern Group at the Festival of Britain 1951 is significant to me personally and culturally.

My late father, Alec Davis, was the first editor of Design magazine from 1949. This Design Council slide evokes that period, the founding of the Council of Industrial Design, the “Britain Can Make It” exhibition at the V&A in 1946, and the (now quaint and patronising? – sorry, Dad) commitment to modernism and to “educating” the public about design. The remit was also to persuade industry – the subtitle of the V&A show was “Good Design and Good Business” – a mission that has arguably never been very successful with dire consequences for UK industry.

The other evocative aspect of this slide is the idea behind its imagery. It is a reminder of a period of optimism – the war over, rationing coming to an end, rising employment, the Welfare State including the National Health Service – that included great hopes for science and technology. While many designs continued to glorify the more traditional aspects of nature such as flowers, foliage and seed-heads, some like this one celebrated the imagery enjoyed by crystallographers and others with a technologically enabled view of the world. This celebration of the previously invisible echoes for me the excitement surrounding Hooke’s Microgrphia of 1665 with its revelatory engravings of sights first seen through the microscope.

Stephen Boyd Davis
Professor of Design Research
School of Design, Royal College of Art


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