My Life in Design – Sir Terence Conran
Terence Conran is 84 years young and still working. He’s one of the UK’s most iconic designers – a quote on the back cover of this book declares him:
“Britain’s Taste-Maker in Chief”
Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph.
With the upcoming reopening of London’s Design Museum (which he co-founded), in its new home in Kensington in late November, what better time for a memoir cum career retrospective from a master of design – who has been designing since his student days, which began at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in the mid 1940s. Conran has had so much influence – way beyond his most famous creation – Habitat. However, it was when the Croydon Habitat store opened in the 1970s that was where I experienced his wares first, chicken bricks were the must-have items in your kitchen – and the Croydon shop had an in-store crêperie which was a real hang-out place for us sixth-formers.
Conran started off in fabrics and tableware, started the first of many Conran design companies, he founded Habitat, revamped Heals, started The Conran Shop, wrote books on interiors and more, always with a restaurant on the side somewhere. His high-end furniture company, Benchmark started in 1986, and there was still more to come. Creating NEXT, the Design Museum with Stephen Bayley, and more books from his own publishing company Conran Octopus, (who naturally publish this volume), more interiors and architecture follow, more restaurant designs.
After the forewords and introductions, including one by Conran protégé Thomas Hetherwick, this book’s chapters follow his life in design, type by type. We start with Textiles and Pattern- and Conran gives us three pages of text summarising his work in that area, then we get page after page of gorgeous colour photos, before moving on to a chapter on Habitat, then Fashion & Retail, Architecture, Interiors, Books, Restaurants etc.
If you’ve read any of Conran’s books about design before (e.g Conran on Design, you’ll know that he uses signature colours of deep blue (of the Yves Klein richness) and bright orange.
Underneath it’s blue covers, this book is full of orange. Patterned endpapers are soon followed by the text pages which begin each chapter are printed on bright orange paper – see above. It makes the page edges look brilliant, but without good lighting reading black on orange can be tiring.
This can be forgiven for the wonderful photos that follow (on white backgrounds), together with short notes on each item featured, e.g. his office at Barton Court in Berkshire where his Benchmark furniture company is based. There are over 400 illustrations, most of which are in colour and the choice of thick semi-matte paper allows them to shine.
His work, though eclectic in form, is consistent in style, and some early items he and his team designed still sell today.
What a brilliant career he has had, is still having. (9.5/10)
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Source: Publisher via Amazon Vine – thank you.
Sir Terence Conran, My Life in Design (Conran Octopus, September 2016) Hardback, 264 pages.