Post-war design

Throughout the Museum

Plan a visit

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.

Read more
See less
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.

Exploring Post-war design

Photo of EKCO A22, radio, designed by Wells Coates, manufactured by E. K. Cole Ltd, 1946, UK. Museum no. CIRC.13-1977. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
EKCO A22, radio, designed by Wells Coates, manufactured by E. K. Cole Ltd, 1946, UK. Museum no. CIRC.13-1977. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Festival of Britain, poster, Abram Games, 1951, UK. Museum no. E.308-2011. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Festival of Britain, poster, Abram Games, 1951, UK. Museum no. E.308-2011. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Olympic torch (with detail), designed by Ralp Lavers, manufactured by High Duty Alloys Ltd, 1947, UK. Museum no. M.3:1, 2-2006. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Olympic torch (with detail), designed by Ralp Lavers, manufactured by High Duty Alloys Ltd, 1947, UK. Museum no. M.3:1, 2-2006. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Boric Acid 8.34, wallpaper, designed by William J. Odell, produced by John Line & Sons Ltd., 1951, UK. Museum no. E.886-1978. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Boric Acid 8.34, wallpaper, designed by William J. Odell, produced by John Line & Sons Ltd., 1951, UK. Museum no. E.886-1978. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Britain Can Make It, poster, Ashley Havinden, 1946, UK. Museum no. CIRC.459-1971. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Britain Can Make It, poster, Ashley Havinden, 1946, UK. Museum no. CIRC.459-1971. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Garden egg chair, designed by Peter Ghyczy, made by Elastogran GmbH, 1968 – 71, Germany. Museum no. W.8-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Garden egg chair, designed by Peter Ghyczy, made by Elastogran GmbH, 1968 – 71, Germany. Museum no. W.8-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Ornament for clothes or body, Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, 1966 – 7, Museum no. M.26-2015. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ornament for clothes or body, Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, 1966 – 7, Museum no. M.26-2015. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Frequency, furnishing fabric, Barbara Brown for Heal Fabrics Ltd.,1969, UK. Museum no. CIRC.34-1969. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Frequency, furnishing fabric, Barbara Brown for Heal Fabrics Ltd.,1969, UK. Museum no. CIRC.34-1969. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Robin Hood Gardens, building, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1970, UK. Museum no. CD.26-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Robin Hood Gardens, building, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1970, UK. Museum no. CD.26-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of T-shirt, Jamie Reid archive, designed by Jamie Reid, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, modified by Johnny Rotten, 1976, England. Museum no. S.794-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
T-shirt, Jamie Reid archive, designed by Jamie Reid, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, modified by Johnny Rotten, 1976, England. Museum no. S.794-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Pye model CS17 television, Robin Day, 1956 – 7, UK. Museum no. CIRC.231&A-1963. © Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Pye model CS17 television, Robin Day, 1956 – 7, UK. Museum no. CIRC.231&A-1963. © Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Homemaker, plate, designed by Enid Seeney and Tom Arnold, made by Ridgway Potteries Ltd., about 1957, UK. Museum no. C.53-1991. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Homemaker, plate, designed by Enid Seeney and Tom Arnold, made by Ridgway Potteries Ltd., about 1957, UK. Museum no. C.53-1991. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Queen Elizabeth II, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1953, England. Museum no. PH.311-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Queen Elizabeth II, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1953, England. Museum no. PH.311-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Marilyn Monroe, screenprint, Andy Warhol, printed by Aetna Silkscreen Products Inc./ Du-Art Displays, published by Factory Additions, 1973, US. Museum no. CIRC.121-1968. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, NY and DACS, London 2001
Marilyn Monroe, screenprint, Andy Warhol, printed by Aetna Silkscreen Products Inc./ Du-Art Displays, published by Factory Additions, 1973, US. Museum no. CIRC.121-1968. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, NY and DACS, London 2001

Photo of Christine Keeler, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), 1963. Museum no. E.2-2002. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Lewis Morley
Christine Keeler, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), 1963. Museum no. E.2-2002. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Lewis Morley

Learn more about Post-war design

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