Iconic British design - time to focus on the new?

28th September 2018

Iconic British design - time to focus on the new?

I came across a brilliant quotation the other day:

"Tradition is tending the flame, not worshipping the ashes"  Gustave Mahler

We’ve become fairly adept at worshipping the ashes in the UK, particularly when it comes to our manufactured products. Designs that were perfectly good in their day achieve ‘iconic’ status, which somehow comes to mean that they deserve to live forever. The Mini, the Anglepoise lamp, all kinds of furniture and, of course, the Land Rover Defender.

The Defender was much loved, but never the best 4x4. That title goes to Toyota’s Land Cruiser: a machine so tough that you can drive it for eighty thousand kilometres on mountains and river beds, and it still doesn’t have the smallest rattle when you get it back onto smooth tarmac.

British design needs to rediscover the passion for innovation and doing things differently that brought us many of the products that we now cherish and cling to. Why don’t we focus on revolutionary ideas that solve today’s problems and challenges, rather than creating high tech copies of old stuff?

The UK of 2018 seems strangely obsessed with an imagined glorious past. As we come out of the EU, we need to make the best use of our undoubted abilities with technology, science, design and creativity to look to the future, and let the ashes blow away...

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