What Can The Bulldozer, Bauhaus and The Design Council Teach Us?

In 1944 there were battles raging in the Atlantic and across Italy, assaults were underway to dismantle the Siegfried Line and the famous Allied invasion of Normandy, 'Operation Overlord'ready. 

And yet, in the midst of this, Winston Churchill and his government planned for economic recovery. They established The Council of Industrial Design now The Design Council. It’s founding purpose to promote ‘by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry’ and support a positive economic future. Over the next 20 years British design and manufacturing began to make waves around the world from computer development, the world’s first commercial jet, high strength carbon fiber to desktop calculators and the lava lamp!

After the Spanish flu pandemic which killed over 50 million people worldwide the 1920’s saw new inventions, the bulldozer, traffic lights,  the radio altimeter, the instant camera, headrests and the first convertible car to name a few. In 1919 after the ‘Great War ‘,Walter Gropius founded a school with a vision  to bridge the gap between art and industry by combining crafts and fine arts and reflect the new period in history. This was Bauhaus. Their colour palette, minimalist approach and geometric shapes can still be seen in our designs.

Whilst, the past doesn’t equal the future there are some valuable lessons to learn from other seismic shifts across our history. It seems even during and after the most catastrophic events humans are insightful, resourceful and forward focused.


What will be this generations' bulldozer?


Since the outbreak of Covid, doctors, scientists and designers have been working on ideas to stop the virus spreading. When Wyn Griffiths's wife went to hospital and realised there was an issue with opening doors he invented a hands-free door pull to stop people having to touch door handles after using sanitiser. Virustatic Shield had been working on an anti-viral coating since 2011 but in five weeks they developed a snood that kills more than 95% of any viruses, Ziplines’ drones are dropping medical supplies to pandemic areas in the USA and there are dozens of other examples.

As we now adjust to life after lock down and a return to work designers have been thinking about the potential issues of a new socially-distanced world. We’ve seen flexible seating on trains to allow bike storage, a wide range of masks from many including brands like Adidas, suspended Plexiglas shields like lampshades that allow diners safety and privacy in restaurants, QR codes enabling menu downloads, screens to separate children at school or customers from staff in shops and there are even proposals for shipping containers to be repurposed as mobile vaccination centres.


The ultimate test will be what emerges afterwards. How will design support our economic recovery and our culture? What will be this generation’s bulldozer whose sales increase every year or our Bauhaus? What is clear, is that companies who invest in design see a greater impact on business performance than the rest, a return of £225 for every £100 invested with shares in design-led businesses outperforming the FTSE 100 by more than 200% over the past decade. [1]

Until the dust settles as Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview eloquently said, ”together we will help to rebuild the industry – one brick at a time”.

[1] The Value of Design Factfinder report-The Design Council