Heads Up: Kenneth Grange

The Guv'nor – how one man shaped modern Britain
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

An exhibition at London's Design Museum of prolific and influential product designer Kenneth Grange's work, entitled Making Britain Modern.

Elevator Pitch

The making of modern man.

Prime Movers

Kenneth Grange, who has given the museum access to his archives. A founder of Pentagram Design, he's the man responsible for the shape of many of our domestic appliances, vehicles and daily products, from post-boxes to black cabs to Parker Pens.

The Stars

The objects themselves. Functional and normal though many of them are, this retrospective hopes to make you look at the design of everyday items in a new way. Classic items include an Anglepoise light, the Kodak Instamatic camera, the London black cab, the InterCity 125 train, a Wilkinson razor...

The Early Buzz

Edwin Heathcote wrote in the Financial Times that "Kenneth Grange is ubiquitous. The day before I went to talk to him I'd taken a trip on one of the trains he designed and had got into one of the London taxi cabs he designed. I shaved with one of his razors, opened a door using one of his handles and waited for a bus at one of his bus shelters. No other designer has had the same impact on the London environment." Writing for lifestyle magazine The Quarterly, Grange identifies the key to his success: "Product designers must be in a state of perpetual disaffection with what they see around them. It spurs them on to create something better."

Insider Knowledge

Grange's own favourite design is his 1968 streamlined, tube-nosed train for British Rail – a shape which has since influenced the look of many high-speed trains.

It's great that...

The exhibition should blur the boundaries between the commercial and the artistic – Grange himself saying: "I am often associated with Modernism, but I see myself as being a commercial animal first and foremost."

It's a shame that...

Given his designs are so ubiquitous, it might be hard to persuade people to stump up for tickets to an exhibition.

Hit Potential

Sure to be popular with design types, and probably has enough quirky charm to tempt a more general punter too.

The Details

Kenneth Grange: Making Britain Modern is at the Design Museum, London SE1 2YD (designmuseum.org), 20 July to 30 October. Holly Williams