Tag Archives: conran design

Spring has sprung in the Conran windows

 It’s Friday, the sun is shining and we are full of the joys of spring – as is our current window display!

 The products gracing the glass shelves this month are from our M&S collaboration and are all new in for SS12.

 Among those gorgeous bunches of daffs are some of our bestselling cloches, cushions and our fabulous new bedlinen – nine fresh new designs for Spring.

 All are available online at Marks & Spencer.

 If you are in the area feel free to pop along to our office at 22 Shad Thames and have a look. 

Terence’s exhibition is still on around the corner at the Design Museum so come and have a browse afterwards!


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The car isn’t changing, but the world around it is…

Forget newcomers like laptops and smartphones, the technology which has dominated life on this planet for the last 100 years is the motor car. It may have been huge shifts in politics and prosperity that made the 20th century the age of the common man; but it was the car that brought  that idea to life. It was not so much the car itself that was life-changing, but the freedom it bestowed. Suddenly travel was a personal pleasure not a public burden, with the timetable and the route controlled by you, not the railway company. 

But the car was much more than a better means of transport, it was a means of self-expression. The car captured the spirit of the age: the fins of a post-war Cadillac carried signals of confidence and glamour as surely as the classless insouciance of the first Mini announced a cheekier and more democratic spirit in the ‘60s. Above all the car came to symbolise an extraordinary triangulation between power, romance and personal control. You were in charge; you could unleash those horsepower on the open road; and you decided where you wanted to go.

The romance...

Car-makers were quick to capitalise on this. Jaguar gave you ‘Grace, Space, Pace’, while BMW was ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’. Both these brands skilfully designed the cockpit with a plethora of crisp round dials to make you feel as if you were landing Concorde. Why do you need a rev counter on an automatic car? To make you feel better, that’s why, to make you feel in control.
Every car commercial seemed to be shot at dusk in some remote and glorious part of the Scottish Highlands. In our lives we go to Tesco, but in our dreams we go to Cape Wrath.
The design and the marketing of the modern car has deliberately played to our deepest fantasies of power and control. But that is suddenly seeming much less relevant. Of course, there’s always a gap between fantasy and reality; and if that gap is as wide as the Thames, you might get away with it. But when the gap seems as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, the fantasy starts to implode. In today’s reality, we have speed limits, speed bumps, speed cameras, parking fines, congestion charging, exponential leaps in fuel prices, and – above all – far more cars. Which means far more traffic. I drive a Mini Cooper S, a car which symbolises performance as well as practicality. With its turbo-charged engine it’s capable of 140 mph: yet most of my driving hours are spent in London traffic where I’m pleased to be doing 20 mph.
How can the car-makers of today cope with this? If their designers and marketeers turn their back on the romance of the car, they put their magic ingredient at risk. Yet somehow that romance has to be re-articulated in a language that makes sense in today’s over-crowded over-regulated world.

...the reality

Those lovely, old commercials in the isolation of the Scottish Highlands just don’t wash any more. The new generation of car commercials, showing a car practically leap-frogging through an urban world, is equally implausible. I think the answer is to think of the car less as transport, more as cocoon. Being in your car is being in your own private world, and that can be a pleasure in itself. If you tell me my journey is going to be quick and traffic-free, I simply won’t believe you. But if you tell me my journey, however irksome, will be made a joy by the elegant design of my cocoon, with its luxurious leather seats, its hands-free phone, its i-pod ready stereo, then I might start to believe you. 

Of course, that idea needs to be developed beyond doing the existing stuff well to doing something quite new in my cocoon. But it is the right direction. How else can you explain the success of the SUV? We all know that off-roaders never go off road, and the only range which Range Rovers rove upon is the run from home to the nearest private school. But these behemoths are the ultimate cocoon. They are, literally, above the traffic. Their hugeness emphasises the isolation of the occupants from the stressful world outside. Of course, their cumbrous nature makes them much less fun to drive than my Mini-Cooper, but since we’re both in a queue at 20 mph, that doesn’t matter.
Driving today is much less about the pleasure of speed and much more about the pleasure of seclusion. Car-makers and their designers need to recognize that: their customers already know.

Roger Mavity, CEO, The Conran Group

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Conran at the HOME show: Who has the Best Stand, the Best New Product and the Best British product?

The brand new HOME showwhich ran last week at Earl’s Court, offered an inspiring selection of stylish, high quality interior accessories, lighting and occasional furniture, from hundreds of the best design companies in the UK and Europe.

Joining a panel of judges whose job it was to select the best of the show’s stands was our own Jill Webb from Conran & Company  who was accompanied by other design commentators including London Design Guide editor Max Fraser.

The winner in the best stand category was Reiko Kanieko – known for her delicate ceramics and pleasing aesthetic style.

Hers was a tiny stand and the judges felt quite strongly it would have been easy to award the prize to a big stand but that the restrictions of smaller scale made the job a lot more difficult. The stand complemented the product beautifully, with narrow shelving in quality wood and simple, paired back but elegant design.

Best British product went to a new entry from former trade-only toaster makers Rowlett Rutland  (best tag line ever “Because toast deserves respect” – so true) also proudly, and wonderfully, made in the UK. Being ‘good enough for industry’ definitely makes these toasters a firm favourite among us consumers we are sure and the fact they are made in the UK make them a firm Terence favourite too.

The best new product was Black & Blum’s ‘eau good’ water bottle: not just a clever name but also a stylish looking water bottle that makes tap water taste great.

Dan Black and Martin Blum wanted to create a bottle that was ergonomically- (and aesthetically) designed and would filter tap water as you drink. 

The ingenious and careful design is based on an ancient Japanese filtering system using carbon filters. Read more about it here on Treehugger.

All in all a great show – and not forgetting we were there in our own Conran capacity too, showing some brand new designs from Content by Conran and Conran Bath & Body.

..the new Counterbalance shelving from Content by Conran

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When Terence met Claudia: BBC Radio 2 Arts Show interview – the Festival of Britain, soup, the UK’s reputation for design and an ‘Ode to tools’….

Make sure you catch Terence’s lovely interview on the Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman – available on BBC i-Player until this Friday 13th.

It’s a really charming interview: hear the great man talking about how it all began at the Festival of Britain (“people in Macintoshes suddenly seeing a bit of colour”); the embryonic entrepreneur (“sitting around with a friend drinking cider and talking about ways to make money”); setting up his first restaurant – the Soup Kitchen (“a giant vat of soup, sold at a shilling a bowl”); his favourite aspects of habitat (“the buying meetings…tremendously exciting!”); his ode to tools; passion for UK design and manufacture and what he’s most proud of today and through his long and varied career. There really is so much he could choose from….

A young Terence Conran...

Don’t miss it. Click here to listen.

He’s on from 0: 15: 30 to 0: 35: 25 – with a bit of nice music halfway through…

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2011: what a year

As we turn the corner into Olympic year we wanted to reflect a little on what’s happened here at CONRAN in 2011: it really was quite a year.

We began working with Marks & Spencer, for whom we designed our beautiful branded collection of home products which launched this Autumn. Our new Spring Collection hits the shops any day now! Watch out for fabulous wicker lamp shades , elegant bedroom essentials and an Alfresco collection which will make waiting for summer even more painful…!

Everyone's favourite...the segment clock

Our range instore...

Terence celebrated the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday  celebrated in part by a wonderful Terence Conran retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum – which runs until the 4th March and was designed by our graphic & interior design teams.  Did you know Time Out also voted Terence as one of their ‘people of 2011’ ?

The Telegraph liked him quite a lot too….

The Conran Shop have been doing all number of gorgeous and interesting things including some fab seasonal window displays and – of course – developing new ranges of product like the Barton & Pavilion furniture ranges, designed by Terence, manufactured by Ercol.

Conran Contracts worked on one of the most exciting new developments of the year at Westfield, Stratford (more about that next week)

We also launched new collaborative designs with Alessi and original BTC lighting and our brand new beautiful Bath & Body range designed by Conran Studio.

Architects Conran & Partners have been busy planning the development of a huge eco housing estate in Ealing and the redevelopment of the Astoria Cinema in Brighton and London landmark Walthamstow Stadium…and that’s just here in the UK!

2011 also saw the launch of Conran Singh, our interactive agency dealing with all things digital who have already completed exciting projects for community organisation Your Square Mile and luxury mobile phone brand Vertu. More to come from them with a Q&A with founder Daljit Singh next week.

 And that’s just off the top of our heads….

We predict 2012 will be even more action packed!

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Filed under Conran & Company, Conran & Partners, Conran and London, Conran and M&S, Conran Contracts, Conran Singh, INTERIOR DESIGN, TERENCE CONRAN

Pioneering a sophisticated, civilised lifestyle

This weekend’s Culture Show on BBC2 saw Alan Yentob sharing a sofa with Terence and discussing transforming Britain in the ’50s,  pioneering a sophisticated, civilised lifestyle and his being the man who enticed an entire generation into understanding design.

Especially worth it for the colour footage of the Festival of Britain and Yentob’s green screen moments cunningly enabling him to stumble across a covorting ’60s couple enjoying Terence’s newly retailing duvet and hanging out cross-legged on a lounge-lizard style sofa – pages literally straight out of the original habitat catalogue. 

Watch it here on BBC iPlayer from 37.00 – 44.40

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Terence’s Top 10 Conran/M&S products: No. 5 – The Hourglass

This product has caused quite a stir in the office. It’s a witty update on the old-fashioned hourglass – but we’ve reduced the time down to just 15 minutes.

Legend has it, when M&S CEO Marc Bolland saw it he immediately said he wanted to order one for each of his staff at the M&S Head Office in Paddington to make sure meetings were conducted quickly and efficiently!


It’s something we might even think about doing here at Conran HQ. Although an even better use might be for maximum running time for the bath or a countdown to putting the kettle on in the middle of your favourite TV programme….

£19.50, available from M&S stores throughout the UK and online at www.marksandspencer.com/autumn. Available online 23rd September.

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