Post-war design

Throughout the Museum

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From mid-century modernism to the swinging sixties through to the edgy, subversive seventies, British design post-1945 became an antidote to the sombre ethos of wartime, as designers found creative solutions to transform a nation still dealing with austerity and rationing.

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In the decades following the Second World War (1939 – 45), high-profile events such as the 1948 London Olympics and the 1951 Festival of Britain helped to relaunch Britain, spurred on by designers like Ernest Race, Abram Games and Robin and Lucienne Day. The boom in mass-produced consumer goods, the advent of pop and punk, and space-age anxieties left their mark on everything from clothing to homewares, changing the shape of British design indefinitely.

Collection Highlights

EKCO A22, radio, designed by Wells Coates, manufactured by E. K. Cole Ltd, 1946, Southend-on-Sea, England
Festival of Britain, poster, designed by Abram Games, 1951, UK
Olympic torch
(Detail) Olympic torch, designed by Ralph Lavers, manufactured by High Duty Alloys Ltd, 1947, London, England
Boric Acid 8.34, wallpaper, designed by William J. Odell, produced by John Line & Sons Ltd., 1951, England
Britain Can Make It, poster, designed by Ashley Havinden, printed by Haycock Press Ltd., 1946, UK
Garden Egg Chair, designed by Peter Ghyczy, manufactured by Elastogran GmbH, 1968, Germany
Ornament, designed by Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, 1966 – 7, London, England
furnishing fabric
Frequency, furnishing fabric, designed by Barbara Brown, made for Heal Fabrics Ltd.,1969, UK
(Detail) Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, London, building, by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1970 – 72, UK
Jamie Reid archive, t-shirt, by Jamie Reid, Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood and Johnny Rotten, 1976, London, England
Pye model CS17, television, designed by Robin Day, made by Pye Ltd, 1956 – 7, Cambridge, England
Homemaker, plate, designed by Enid Seeney and Tom Arnold, made by Ridgway Potteries Ltd., 1950s, Staffordshire, England
Queen Elizabeth II, photograph, C-type print, by Cecil Beaton, 1953, London, England
Marilyn Monroe, screenprint, by Andy Warhol, printed by Aetna Silkscreen Products Inc./ Du-Art Displays, published by Factory Additions, 1967, New York, US
Christine Keeler beside chair, 1963, photograph, gelatin silver print, by Lewis Morley, 1963, London, England


Background image: Festival of Britain (detail), poster, Abram Games, 1951, UK. Museum no. E.311-2011. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London