Patriotism and British design

Patriotism is well and truly back in vogue. It started with a murmur last year – the Royal wedding and a brief flutter of flags kickstarted Southbank’s reprisal of the 1951 Festival of Britain; a neat row of bright pastel sheds and a crescent of sand brought the charm of the British seaside resort to the Thames.

That murmur has amplified into an almightily scream of Union Jack cushions, Tube Map teatowels and ‘Keep Calm’ posters. This ‘sentiment’ trend – a nostalgia for the Britain of yore – will wax at least until the Royal Jubilee and the London Olympics are long in the memory, and perhaps until our economy gets onto a firmer footing (there is comfort in nostalgia, after all).

The currency of British iconography has never been stronger, but this is a superficial patriotism. What about modern British design – objects beautiful in form and function, designed in Britain?

At Conran, we’re passionate about it. Few could knock Britain’s design heritage – from William Morris to James Dyson, British designers have always been a force to be reckoned with. But we’re also passionate about our design future – giving British designers the chance to thrive.

One thing we could do to secure that future is better-protect our designers. ELLE Decoration UK has launched an e-petition to reform copyright protection for designers.

As things stand, works of literature, drama, music and film are protected for 70 years from the death of creator, whereas designs are only protected for 25 years from their date of invention. Michelle Ogundehin, Editor in Chief of ELLE Decoration UK and V&A Trustee, argues that this disparity harms the profitability of designing in Britain – and fosters a market for cheap fakes of classic designs.

The Conran Shop has already thrown its weight behind the ‘Fight the Fakes’ campaign, currently blowing up across the web. So too has Terence Conran, who teamed up with Michelle for a Times feature on the initiative (sadly paywalled). Terence noted that the fakes industry has “grown hugely” in the past decade, and implored the Government to look after Britain’s young designers.

The Times interview

Our Chancellor envisages “a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers”. In that light, isn’t it time we start championing not just the design classics of the past, but also those of the future?

Let us know what you think, and check out ELLE Decoration UK’s Equal Rights For Design Facebook campaign.

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4 Comments

Filed under TERENCE CONRAN, THE CONRAN SHOP

4 responses to “Patriotism and British design

  1. British design – I’m all for it. But good British design… Matthew Hilton, Lee Broom, Benjamin Hubert, Conran, Kenneth Grange etc. “Union Jack cushions, Tube Map teatowels and ‘Keep Calm’ posters” are, in my opinion, just rubbish. I see no point… but then I see no point to Patriotism either.

  2. Pingback: Getting Real | What's going on at CONRAN?: The CONRAN blog

  3. Irony noted ;-) The British public, on the whole, are so superficial in their patriotism and in their understanding of what constitutes good design.

    Thanks.

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