Robin Day OBE
Born 25th May, 1915. Died 9th November 2010.
After graduating from the RCA and working in exhibition and graphic design, Robin Day’s big break came when he and fellow design lecturer Clive Latimer won the 1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. This heralded the start of his career in furniture design and his collaboration with the furniture manufacturer Hille. He was commissioned to design all the seating for London’s Royal Festival Hall, which opened at the Festival of Britain in 1951. His prolific work for Hille included the groundbreaking 1963 Polypropylene chair, which sold in tens of millions worldwide.
Designs for other clients included televisions and radios for Pye, aircraft interiors for BOAC and seating for the Barbican centre, London. Robin Day was loved for his kindness and humour, and earnestly believed in the power of good design to improve everyone’s lives.
In 1999 Robin Day commented ‘In my long years of designing, the thing that has always interested me is the social context of design and designing things that are good quality that most people can afford. I think that clarity and what we call “good design” is a social force that can enhance people’s environments. Things should be made with regard to the limited resources of the planet, so they should be re-usable and long-lasting.’
We were particularly excited in 2005 when a collaboration between Robin, Acme Studios and The Home came to fruition with the launch of ‘Scribe’, the first and only pen Day had ever designed. The edition has since sold out but an early prototype can still be seen at The Home in Saltaire.
Though Robin and his wife Lucienne mostly worked separately, they were engaged as joint Design Consultants by John Lewis. During their 25 years’ relationship with the company they initiated a transformation of every aspect of the house style.
Robin and Lucienne Day were both awarded the OBE and were the first married couple both to be appointed Royal Designer for Industry.
May 2015 saw the formation of the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation spearheaded by their daughter Paula. As part of its mission to promote public knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the Days’ design legacies, the Foundation has made donations from Robin and Lucienne’s personal design archive to leading public collections including the V&A Museum, London, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and the Geffrye Museum, London. The contents of Robin Day’s studio are to be donated to London’s Design Museum for public display on its new site, the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington. The Foundation will also work closely with design writers and curators to provide information about the Days’ design careers, and is currently digitising Robin Day’s historic design photograph archive to create an important educational resource.