Back in 1851 a group of leading British figures helped to organise an international celebration of culture, industry and design: the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’. The Great Exhibition was held in the specially-constructed Crystal Palace, which eventually left its name to an entire area of south London. Although this was a global event, it was undeniably British design that was showcased above all other: the industrial and artistic wonders of the Victorian age firmly took centre stage.
Some six million people visited this remarkable event. Europe was just emerging from a turbulent period in its history, and the message of the 1851 Exhibition was clear: embracing technology and improved design could lead to a better life for everyone.
160 years later, once again in highly uncertain times, Britain remains at the forefront of international design. This time, however, there seems little aspiration or inspiration on the part of our leaders that this might carry us into a better future. It comes as something of a surprise that a proposed shake-up of the school curriculum intends to remove design from the syllabus entirely. Under plans to replace the current system of GCSEs with an ‘English Baccalaureate’, creative subjects including art and design will count for nothing. Only the ‘stem’ subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language will count towards the final qualification – a move derided as ‘an absolutely short-sighted insanity’ by Neville Brody, Head of the Communication Art & Design department at the Royal College of Art.
Given that the UK has the largest creative sector in Europe, employing over 2 million people and contributing 6 percent of GDP, it’s hard to see quite what the government hope to achieve by hamstringing its creative industries – wringing out the young talent of today who might be the top designers of tomorrow.
If you want to see the best that British design has to offer, give us a call on 0207 101 1841 or drop us a line using our contact form.