British design exhibition at the V&A

It is a little pricey at £12.50, but certainly interesting at a number of levels. There is the nostalgia surrounding design epochs and the objects that came to symbolise them. There is the learning – largely historical – about the objects and/or movements that encapsulate British design. And there is a great shared experience – I talked to more people at this exhibition than at any other I can remember. For example, at the balsa model of my former university, I met someone who recently visited with potential students and a former student who also went on to work at the university whilst I was there. A very nice encounter.

The exhibition is housed in three galleries. The first is a bit of a mish-mash of epochs, events and artefacts (e.g. the 60s, the Festival of Britain, transport/architecture). The second gallery revolved around popular culture – Bowie, Mary Quant, Factory records, etc. The final gallery, loosely representing innovation, had Concorde, the E-Type Jaguar, The Gherkin, Video Games and Dyson.

I thoroughly enjoyed my journey through the galleries (it took me over three hours) but I was left wondering what the point was. What was the narrative? Why these artefacts and not others? Even more disturbing, however, is the question, where to now? The innovation gallery was surprisingly uninspiring. It was rather sterile. On leaving the gallery, rather than walking into a new world of opportunity, one walks into the gift shop. Rather unfortunate, I thought.

The exhibition continues until 12 August. The exhibition’s video includes interviews with a number of designers featured, including Margaret Calvert who worked on the road signs and who admits that the little girl featured on the ‘children crossing’ road sign is her own image of herself as an eight-year old girl (with her little brother). The video can be seen from the exhibition’s website

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