Reviewed: Masterpieces of British Design

British design is filled with icons of great style and legendary status. From the Spitfire to the traditional red telephone box, from the Mini to our road traffic signs, there are so many instantly recognisable symbols of Britain and Britishness that deserve to be applauded and celebrated. Now, in a beautiful hardback book from Charlotte and Peter Fiell, with a forward by a knight of British design, Sir Terence Conran, those symbols are finally being recognised and cherished.

‘Mastepieces of British Design’ that can be found at Carlton Books, is a wonderful celebration of all that is weird, wonderful and cool about British design icons. With a cover dust jacket that is emblazoned with a photograph of the aforementioned red telephone box, you know that this is going to celebrate the ordinary along with the extraordinary like Spitfires and hovercraft’s.

The book starts with a potted history of British design, before launching into the products that made it so great. The book is chronological, starting with a cast iron cooking pot by Abraham Darby, and each entry is given a double page spread, complete with colour photographs of the item. Most of the items are extremely well known, for instance, the London Underground map by Harry Beck, and the covers of the Penguin classics, so well known they have inspired a whole range of memorabilia of their own.

There are also items that can be seen as classics of popular culture, such as the cover of The Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, designed by Peter Blake, and much imitated since. And the book also comes right up to date with a desk fan from Dyson, showing that British design is still live and kicking and leading the way in the 21st century.

This is a really stunning book, packed with information and lots of colour photography that really illuminates the project perfectly.


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