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Half a century of British design launched online

Date posted: 08/10/2009

Four thousand images from the Design Council Slide Collection have now been launched online, providing a unique insight into the history of British design and its promotion by the UK government from the 1940s to the early 1990s.

The Design Council was established in 1944 and is the UK’s national strategic body for design.  The images relate closely to the changing scope and policies of the Council over a period of almost fifty years, providing valuable visual evidence of the ways in which design has been evaluated and promoted throughout this period.

They show a wide variety of products such as tableware, furniture, lighting, toys, domestic appliances, textiles, wallpapers, office equipment, engineering components and machinery, as well as other areas of design such as architecture, town planning, interior design, graphic design and corporate identity.

The collection also contains many unique images that record the Council's own activities and initiatives, such as its annual award scheme and the exhibitions it organised or contributed to in the UK and abroad, including ‘Britain Can Make It’ and the ‘Festival of Britain’.

An illustrated online guide to the collection has also been launched today.  The guide aims to indicate the strengths of the collection, enabling users to exploit it more fully as a resource for learning and research.

‘The collection is an incredibly rich resource for anyone interested in design’ says David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council.  ‘In particular, it demonstrates the Design Council’s long track record of promoting the use of design to strengthen the UK’s economy and improve society.’

The slide collection was transferred to the Manchester Metropolitan University in 1995, and since then a series of digitisation projects have resulted in over 13,000 images (nearly two-thirds of the collection) being made available online through the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS).

The expansion of the Design Council Slide Collection on VADS is one feature of the new collections and enriched website that has been funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) as part of its pioneering digitisation programme.  JISC Digitisation Programme Officer, Ben Showers, says:

“JISC’s investment in enriching digital resources is a real commitment to preserving resources for the use of generations to come.  VADS is an exciting and hugely important collection of unique and valuable images, and the enhancement of the website will make these resources even more accessible for teachers, researchers and students across the creative arts.”

The Design Council Slide Collection digitisation project was also supported with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

See the Design Council Slide Collection and the online guide at:

See all of the VADS collections at: and visit the Design Council’s website at