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Royal Designers celebrate 75 years

Royal Designers celebrate 75 years David Watkins

David Watkins

8 December 2010
by Melanie Andrews

Melanie Andrews is Project Manager in the Design department at the RSA, London and reports on the anniversary of the Royal Design for Industry.

Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the Royal Design for Industry, a title conferred to those who have shown sustained design excellence, work of aesthetic value and significant benefit to society.  The RSA and the Royal Designers are celebrating this by working on a project together called 75 Days.

Royal Designers are invited to give a day or more of their expertise to the RSA. Collectively – 75 days will be given to a variety of projects and other opportunities for example; giving inspirational talks and workshops at the RSA Academy, giving graduates some work experience at their studios, or advising RSA Fellows’ on the development of their projects. Royal Designers who sign up to the project will be introduced to RSA staff or Fellows who will benefit from their collaboration.

The RSA’s Design & Society programme argues that that the insights and processes of design can increase the resourcefulness of people and communities and has a vital role to play today in making society itself more resourceful.

Gaia Marcus, researcher on the RSA’s Connected Communities project is currently in discussion with interaction designer Simon Waterfall RDI to explore new ways of visualising social networks, and to find out how people engage with, interpret and make use of technical data.

Product designer Julian Brown RDI has been connected with RSA fellow Dr Jamie O’Brien who is working on a research project with the brain injury charity Headway. The project is about turning Headway members’ everyday experience of the city into a coherent vision for an urban design social enterprise, which the team can offer as a service to planners and architects.

We are also in discussion with Alex Watson, Networks Manager of the RSA Catalyst and Skills bank to discuss which Fellows’ projects could benefit from the problem-solving skills of a designer. Mike Dempsey, Malcolm Garrett, Tom Lloyd, Kenneth Grange, and new RDI Peter Clegg are participating in the judging of this year’s RSA Student Design Awards.


Background on the RDIs
For over 250 years the RSA has actively sought new ways to further the common good and has vigorously supported design since it emerged as a professional discipline. The title ‘Royal Designer for Industry’ (RDI) was established in 1936 when the design profession was in its infancy, to reward and encourage outstanding designers and to promote the important contribution of design in manufacturing and industry.

Since it was introduced, recipients of the RDI have included designers of all disciplines such as Eric Gill, Gordon Russell, Barnes Wallis, Terence Conran, Vivienne Westwood, and Jonathan Ive.  Royal Designers are responsible for designing the Millennium Bridge, the iPod, the Harry Potter film sets and the miniskirt among other things.