Robin and Lucienne Day are respectively product and textile designers who bought a breath of fresh air to British design back in the 50s thanks to Robin’s cheap mass produced furniture and Lucienne’s vibrant and colourful textiles.
The first thought that came to mind when looking into Robin and Lucienne Day’s work was how their designs, created 60 years ago were still so very appealing to today’s modern society. Robin Day’s use of simple minimalist shapes when designing furniture and Lucienne Day’s use of abstract colourful shapes when creating fabrics are still today used to furnish and complement our homes. One would expect designer items to be expensive and probably parked in some collector’s home, instead Robin Day’s work is found in schools, libraries, concert halls, stadiums and in the underground.
Robin Day was born in High Wycombe in 1915 whereas Lucienne Desire’ Conradi was born Coulsden in Surrey in 1917. Neither of their parents were designers in fact Robin’s father was a policeman whilst his mother was a dressmaker. Lucienne’s father was a Belgian reinsurance broker and her mother a housewife. Lucienne did though develop a love for plants, later represented in her textiles, thanks to her mother’s love for gardening. Robin instead grew up in a furniture making town and most definitely was inspired by the surrounding workshops which later led him to create items of furniture such as storage cabinets and seating. (Jackson 2001 p. 9-10).
They both studied at the Royal College of Art where Robin specialised in furniture and interior design whilst Lucienne specialised in printed textiles. When they met at the school dance in 1940 their mutual interest for design formed an immediate bond between them which led to their marriage in 1942. (Jackson 2001 p. 12).
At the beginning of Lucienne’s career, designers were expected to work anonymously and therefore were not recognised for their work. Soon after leaving the RCA, Lucienne found it difficult, due to this clause, to work for her first employer Sekers and soon left. (Jackson 2001 p. 12).
Their work did not emerge until the beginning of the 1950’s. Until then the post war government restrictions and the textile industries, which were still busy creating blackout material had cast a dark shadow on the design industry. (Design Museum, (no date) Robin and Lucienne Day [Online]. [Accessed October 2007]. Available at: ).
They both started teaching at the Beckenham School of Art and later Robin turned to exhibition and poster design, creating recruiting posters for the RAF and exhibition stands for ICI. Lucienne instead went into fabric design for the clothes industry working for companies like Stevenson & Son and Marks and Spencer. (Jackson 2001 p. 17-29).
In 1948 Robin began his collaboration with Clive Latimer winning the storage section of the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design. This marked the beginning of his relationship with the company Hille who commissioned him to design furniture for mass-production. (Jackson 2001 p. 26-27).
In 1951 Robin was asked to design the interior seating of the Royal Festival Hall.
It was quite a challenge for him as up till then the auditorium seating had been made out of timber frames held by cast-iron stanchions. For this project he took ideas from the car industry using new materials such as fibreglass at the bottom of the seats to soundproof them or pressed steel for the seat frames.For the Royal Festival Hall he also designed the foyer, restaurant, terrace, and orchestra chairs. Quite interesting was how he had the orchestra chairs made with an opening at the back to accommodate the tail of the player’s jackets. (Jackson 2001 p. 36).
Their careers really took off thanks to the festival of Britain in 1951 where Robin was asked to create 3 room settings in the Home Entertainment section of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion. The organizers had asked...