Design Council Archive

Scope and Content

The collection comprises material relating to all spheres of the Council's activities including investigation, publication, exhibition, promotion and education. More than two thousand files document the relationships it developed over time with manufacturing industry, the retail trade, the education sector, cultural organisations and the media. Internal memos and a large body of correspondence, as well as plans, minutes of meetings, and the day-to-day administration of a wide range of initiatives such as competitions and award schemes, make up the content of these files.

Design promotion is a core concern and the Council operated as a display designer, exhibition originator and contributor on local, regional, national and overseas platforms. Most famously it was associated with the delivery of the 1946 Britain Can Make It exhibition and the 1951 Festival of Britain.

The Council"s extensive photographic collection (around 100,000 items) documents these landmark events and reflects many aspects of social and cultural change in twentieth-century Britain, especially as related to product evolution and interior design. This former Picture Library also provides good coverage of design internationally.

Records relating to the post 1980s period are organised by department rather than the earlier numeric sequencing and will be added incrementally to the available listings. These holdings are especially strong in the areas of education at all levels, but especially following the implementation of the National Curriculum, and liaison with global bodies such as ICSID (the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) and ICOGRADA (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations). Also available to researchers are more than two thousand items of exhibition and event-related ephemera (invitations, pamphlets, posters and flyers); books and reports produced or collected by the Council; and many press-cuttings and press releases. The Archive continues to receive regular deliveries of material from the Council.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Design Council (founded in 1944) is the world's first government-funded design promotional body. Founded before the end of the Second World War and originally called the Council of Industrial Design (CoID), it owed its origins to the wish of the UK government's Board of Trade to see British manufacturers increase their performance as exporters of goods. It was believed that competition in world markets would be fiercer than ever in the post-war period, and progress made by other nations towards greater sophistication in their product design needed to be equalled by industrialists at home. At the same time, British retailers, educators and the buying public were considered to be important audiences for the Council"s message. In the wake of the Council"s foundation similar bodies were established in many other countries.

Under its Directors (SC Leslie from 1944, Gordon Russell from 1947, Paul Reilly from 1959, Keith Grant from 1977, Ivor Owen from 1988, Andrew Summers from 1995, and David Kester from 2003) the Council has continued to evolve in response to the changing agendas and funding allocations of successive governments. By 1947 the Council"s internal organisation was being described as binary; its Industrial Division sought to promote the manufacture of better designed goods, and its Information Division sought to promote a responsive audience for those goods. There were sections for Education, Retail and Exhibitions within the Information Division. With minor alterations this broad arrangement continued through to the late 1970s, after which time the Council significantly scaled back its work for the Central Office of Information and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A decade later following a fundamental review it also abandoned its Marketing Services and the Design Selection initiative that had recognised well designed goods in their thousands since 1956, having been trialed at the Festival of Britain. The long established Design Council label, a black and white quartered triangle was discontinued at the same time. By this same date the Council was administering awards worth around £1,000,000 on behalf of external institutions and companies. These included Toshiba Year of Invention, Schools Design Prize, BICC Engineering Design Prize, Burton Group Design Awards, Leverhulme Travelling Scholarships in Industrial Design, Walter Worboys Memorial Trust Fund Scholarships, and the Molins Design Prize. In 1997, following another lengthy re-examination of its role, the streamlined Council adopted a revised three-pronged approach. This placed a new emphasis on the commissioning and generation of design-related research, as well as building new awareness, and creating new resources and partnerships. It was responsible for the delivery of the government"s Millennium Products initiative to identify designs that would inspire product development in the 21st century.

The Council is still in existence ( Between 1956 and 1998 it operated from the Haymarket Design Centre in London; a public showroom that was latterly complemented by a series of regional UK operations. In the earliest years the Council occupied offices in Petty France, London, and they now have premises in Bow Street, Covent Garden. The name change occurred in 1972 when the Council embraced the more technological spectrum of engineering design. After the 1990's re-structuring a new home was sought for its historic documentation. The archive then moved to the University of Brighton. Throughout the Council"s existence, raising awareness of the importance of design for the economy and society has remained its central tenet.


The original order of the material as created and used by the Council has been preserved wherever possible. The main body of files are numbered in a running sequence as well as being assigned a series number to indicate the area of activity to which they referred. All of these series are original except DCA/32.

DCA/1 Formation and general policy

DCA/2 Council meetings and committees

DCA/3 Establishment

DCA/4 Finance

DCA/5 Industry-specific Design Centres

DCA/6 Press, and

6:1 Presscuttings

6:2 Press releases

6.3 Press releases - awards

DCA/7 Industrial design training

DCA/8 Council members

DCA/9 Overseas exhibitions

DCA/10 London Design Centre, and

10:1 Posters

DCA/11 Miscellaneous correspondence

DCA/12 Other bodies and organisations

DCA/13 Conferences, congresses, courses and competitions

DCA/14 Exhibitions

14:1 Photograph albums (Enterprise Scotland)

DCA/14A Britain Can Make It

14A:1 BCMI albums of prints for press purposes

DCA/14B Festival of Britain

DCA/15 Not used by the Council Registry

DCA/16 Library

DCA/17 Evidence for industrial Working Parties

DCA/18 International visits made by Council staff

DCA/19 Education

DCA/20 Not used by the Council Registry

DCA/21 Film

DCA/22 Retail and Distribution

DCA/23 Overseas contacts (no records extant)

DCA/24 Design advice

DCA/25 Industries and industrial associations

DCA/26 Talks

DCA/27 Council publications (Design)

DCA/28 Printing and production

DCA/29 Radio and television broadcasts

DCA/30 Photographic Library, and

30:1 Photographic prints

30:2 Photographic negatives

30:3 Slide library

30:4 Documentation

30:5 Accession books

30:6 Photography relating to the journal 'Design'

30:7 Photography relating to awards

DCA/31 Design Index

DCA/32 Books and printed material

Access Information

Researchers wishing to consult the collection should make an appointment. Telephone 44 (0)1273 643217 or email

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the Faculty of Arts & Architecture at the University of Brighton in 1994.

Other Finding Aids

Listing on database available for consultation at the repository

Archivist's Note

Fonds level record created by Lesley Whitworth in 2007, amended by Sue Breakell, February 2010

Conditions Governing Use

Permission must be sought to publish any material from the collection. Email


The archive continues to accrue.

Related Material

The Design Council Library has been catalogued onto the University of Brighton's library catalogue.

The Design Council Slide Collection is managed by Manchester Metropolitan University Faculty of Art and Design, see


Stewart, Richard 'Design and British Industry' London, John Murray, 1987

For further references, see series level records.