Tuesday, 19 July 2011


A retrospective of the work of Kenneth Grange opens tomorrow (20th July) at the Design Museum in London.

The exhibition is full of Grange's work for the likes of Kenwood and British Rail. It is evident that he has maintained an impressive work rate over his lengthy career.

From the stripped back clock and barometer designs for the likes of Short and Mason (pictured above) to the ubiquitous Platignum pens - you can't help wonder just how many of us have come into contact with his work.

The show also serves as a great documentation of the boom period in which he worked. How many of the companies that he produced designs for exist today? A cursory search shows that only Henry Hope & Sons and Venner (who Grange designed the parking meter for, top of page) are no longer in business. Therefore Kodak, Wilkinson Sword, Henry Milward & Sons, AJ Binns, Parker, Morphy Richards, Stanley Garden Tools and B&W Loudspeakers have all remained resilient and adapted to change. More positive than some might expect.

But back to the design. Compared to the praise heaped on the work of Dieter Rams it would seem Grange has not been championed enough. As you wander around the neatly curated show you realise how the Pentagram co-founder's ideas were for the masses rather than the cognoscenti. Perhaps this stems from his commitment to undertaking design research himself - he mentions talking to shopkeepers about teapots in an interview from Design magazine in 1983. That's commitment.

Making Britain Modern gives a great overview of Grange's career but does suffer from certain products lacking context. This is not the case with the InterCity 125 or Wilkinson Sword razors - the former is illustrated with original models and drawings, the latter has a display of his prototypes - a nice way of showing the development of the work.

Prototyping is vital to Grange - since working on the Chef mixer for Kenwood in 1960 he has never presented without a model. "You're a fool if you romp into production without being as informed as possible," he says.

Overall its dedication to making his designs as good as they can be for the user that shines through. Grange's proximity to all aspects of the process is admirable - as one piece of text states in the show, 'through his relationships with a range of major manufacturers and their experienced and talented technicians, Grange learnt about production costs and the economic use of materials.'


Making Britain Modern is at the Design Museum from 20th July - 30th October. The exhibition is designed by James Irvine and Jasper Morrison, with graphics from Graphic Thought Facility