Design Museum reopens today after an £83m relocation

Panoramic photo of the Design Museum interior

The Design Museum reopens today after an £83m relocation that has tripled its floor space – meaning three times the inspiration for visiting entrepreneurs

West London’s cultural quarter welcomes a new addition this month when the Design Museum reopens at its new home in the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington. Sir Terence Conran who, in 1999, founded the museum – dedicated to products, fashion and architecture – donated £17.5m to aid the move from Shad Thames to its new grade II-listed home.

Built in 1962 and remodelled as part of the £83m move by British designer John Pawson, the new venue is three times larger than the old one, which shut its doors for the last time in June.

Its calendar of rotating exhibitions will kick off with Beazley Designs of the Year, now in its ninth year, which showcases new designs that promote or deliver change.

For the first time, the museum will have a permanent display of its vast collection to tell the story of contemporary design. Included are the Vespa Clubman scooter designed by Italian aeronautical engineer Corradino d’Ascanio and the AK47 assault rifle by Russian gunmaker Mikhail Kalashnikov. But here are four items from the vaults that have touched the more down-to-earth business world…

Road signs

Directional road sign on display at the Design MuseumWe have typographers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert to thank for the uniformity of Britain’s road signs. Prior to their intervention, signs were an incoherent and often illegible mishmash of designs. The pair’s easy-to-decipher typefaces (later named Transport and Motorway), pictograms, materials and colours were incorporated into British law in 1965 after eight years of intrinsic research. They were so successful they were exported to countries including Greece and Portugal.

The laptop

Grid Compass laptop on display at the Design MuseumUtilising a clamshell design, British industrial designer Bill Moggridge was responsible for what is widely considered (though some dispute it) the world’s first laptop. The Grid Compass was designed in 1979 and went on sale three years later. Nasa was attracted to the Grid’s robust frame and used it on the space shuttle, but the price – $8,150 (then around £4,000) – meant it met with limited commercial success.

Ergonomic chairs

Herman Miller Aeron Chair on display at the Design MuseumInspired by Herman Miller proprietor DJ De Pree’s remark that “good design isn’t just good business, it’s a moral obligation”, Bill Stumpf designed the Aeron office chair to an ergonomic standard previously unseen. Debuted in 1994 and co-designed with Don Chadwick, the Aeron is synonymous with the dotcom bubble and addressed the changing shape of the American workforce.

Dyson DC01

Dyson DC33 upright vacuum cleaner on display at Design MuseumDyson vacuum cleaners mightn’t be the first choice for every office-cleaning contract but there is no doubting the contribution British inventor James Dyson has made to business. After 15 years of research, near ruin and rejection of his idea of a bag-less vacuum from rival manufacturers, Dyson’s DC01 upright vacuum cleaner, launched in 1993, became the UK’s biggest seller in just 18 months.

Find out more about the Design Museum

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Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett is an associate editor who writes about entrepreneurs, SMEs, FTSE 100 corporations, technology, manufacturing, media and sustainability.

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