‘Collective Responsibility: The public and the (UK) Council of Industrial Design in the 1940s’ in Harriet Edquist and Laurene Vaughan (eds), The Design Collective: An Approach to Practice, Cambridge Scholars, forthcoming (2012)
This chapter built on a contribution delivered to the 2010 conference Alternative Practices in Design: The Collective – Past, Present and Future, at RMIT in Melbourne. The multi-disciplinary event was a response to the resurgence of interest in design as a collective practice, and as a core component of social activism. The research underpinning Whitworth’s work was ESRC-AHRC funded within the Cultures of Consumption research project, and drew heavily on primary sources in the National Archives and the University of Brighton Design Archives. It took as its focus the first government-sponsored design-promotional body in the world; the United Kingdom’s Council of Industrial Design (Design Council from 1972).
The work recovered an energetic programme of public engagement and consumer education. The Council’s first Director, in particular, refused to contemplate the role before agreement was reached on this aspect of its otherwise significantly industrial remit. The vision developed by the fledgling organisation was of a virtuous circle, within which people were able to respond critically to their material environment, and articulate the wishes and needs that would underpin future product development and materials research. These early years coincided with the country’s turbulent period of economic and social re-alignment, as peacetime manufacturing and reconstruction resumed. Taken as a whole, the volume resonates with current debates arising from present day economic challenges within the creative economy.