50 Years of Design Research









20th Century Boys: Pioneering British Design Thinkers

Emma Murphy and Martyn Evans 

Glasgow School of Art,  Manchester Metropolitan University


Keywords: pioneering British design thinkers; legacy; material culture; biographical narratives


The history of modern British design is often told though well‐known design icons such as the Mini, red double decker bus and the mini skirt. While these iconic designs are notable due to their significant contribution they make to the identity of British design, there is another, untold history that has the potential to provide insight into the foundations of contemporary design consultancy and design research. This paper considers the complex interactions between pioneering British design thinkers, manufacturers, consumers and educators as a means of uncovering an alternative history of British design, one that examines the culture of designing (its social history) as well as the artefacts it produced (its material culture). Based on biographical interviews and initial archival research, the paper profiles five pioneering design thinkers - Misha Black, Michael Farr, Bruce Archer, James Pilditch, and Peter Gorb - and discusses their contribution to design across corporate, consultancy, education and research domains.

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

download the paper (PDF)

Cite this paper:  Murphy, E and Evans, M. (2016). 20th Century Boys: Pioneering British Design Thinkers. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

This paper will be presented at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme

Take part in the discussion: Your comments