July 18, 2011

This week, Making Britain Modern, a retrospective of work by Kenneth Grange opens at the Design Museum in London. One of the founders of storied design firm Pentagram, Grange created some truly iconic products, including the Intercity 125 train and a series of cameras for Kodak (Instamatic 33 Series from 1968, shown.) 

This weekend, The Observer ran a great profile on Grange, who’s now 82 years old. The piece contains some wonderful anecdotes and ideas, including this one on modern furniture: 

Modern furniture is almost always too low and getting off it is a bugger. It’s really only designed to make the space look brilliant.

and this one, on how difficult life must sometimes be for his wife:

It’s a bugger living with a designer, you know. We keep sticking our noses in. She can’t buy a tea towel without me having an opinion.

and this story, of getting to design for Kodak:

I couldn’t yet make a living from product design, so I was working doing the displays for the Kodak pavilion at the World Trade Fair. I was arranging the products on the stand and someone overheard me say, ‘It’s a shame these are so ugly; I could make this really good if they weren’t.’ The next day, the phone rang. It was the head of development at Kodak, and he said, ‘I understand you’re going to design a camera for us.’ It was thrilling, but I was scared, too, because I didn’t know cameras. But again, there was an element of luck involved. I just happened to be in the right place at the moment when Kodak decided to start selling cameras for profit. Up until this point, their cameras were sold at a loss in order to shift film.

This, on designing the Intercity train for British Rail:

If I’d been on the British Rail board, I’d have told me to piss off. But they weren’t difficult to persuade in the end because the argument was sound: the design made the train more efficient.

And finally, Grange isn’t afraid to take a swipe at Apple:

Apple is enjoying a reputation as the maker of the sleekest things. But they’re a bit up their own arse, to be honest. Their things are overdesigned. I’ve got a Mac mini upstairs and every morning I try and fail to find the button on the back.

Seems churlish to say “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” But Grange is one-of-a-kind.

(Images c/o Design Museum.)

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