During Clerkenwell Design Week I had the honour and the privilege* of being “In Conversation With” Sir Kenneth Grange, one of Britain’s most influential product designers. The man behind the first UK parking meters, the Intercity 125 and the Anglepoise Type 75 lamp and one of the founding partners of global design agency Pentagram was absolutely fascinating to talk to and held the audience captivated for well over our allotted hour.
Now, the received wisdom is that people won’t watch a film online for more than 2.5minutes, but that really seems sacrilegious, so here is the full film, and you can scroll down for some of my favourite quotes and, if you really must, a 16 minute edit.
“I went in to Jack [Howe] and I said look there’s this job that I’ve been offered and I’d like you to do it. And to my horror, to my absolute horror he said, ‘No I don’t think that’s a good idea, I think you should resign and do this yourself.’ He had the wit and the generosity [to realise] that this might be the making of a man’s life, and it was.”
“I’ve worked a lot more, not necessarily better, but I bloody worked more hours, so you can’t avoid overtaking anybody else can you? You can make the biggest blunders in the world, but the likelihood is on average you’re still going to overtake your competitors just because you’ve put more time in. Somewhere in my makeup I’ve got an instinct for work.”
“My advice for a young designer? Work 80 hours a week.”
“It’s a marvellous world to be allowed into isn’t it? I mean, to even get paid for enjoying yourself. You wake up and you’ve got something to do, something which is creative, it’s uplifting isn’t it? Even if it’s only repairing an old window – if you do it really well and make light of it or do it better than the tradesman is going to do, it’s all part and parcel of what makes our life worthwhile. Anybody who has the good fortune to get into this trade… it’s not easy and you do get knocked about a lot, but I think underlying it all, it’s still worthwhile waking up in the morning.”
“I come from a very modest beginning and family. I don’t start with an assumption that I know better, therefore the only thing I can get hold of is whether something will work well or not.”
“You’ve got to embrace the notion that someone’s going to enjoy using [what you’ve designed] and as long as we’ve got hands and feet and eyes, using it means the engagement of our senses with the thing itself. You should aspire to make every damned thing better somehow.”
“I’ve got two Apple computers. Both of them are bloody difficult to find the switch for on and off. It’s a conceit that they assume that you’re part of their world, that you’ve been such an ardent admirer that you’ve been allowed through the door of knowing where the button is. If you’re smart enough and your fingers are delicate enough, just around that corner is something that you won’t even know you’ve moved, but just around that corner, you know you’ve been successful because the light comes on.”
With heartfelt thanks to Sir Kenneth Grange and to Anglepoise for the first photograph, both films and for arranging the interview.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
(*I know bloggers get criticised for using those words, but seriously, it was Sir Kenneth Grange!)
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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