Design Council image archive goes online

The Design Council’s slide collection has been launched online as a database featuring 4,000 images of British design from the 1940s to the 1990s…

A selection of Marianne Straub’s textile designs, used on British Railways in the 1960s

The Design Council’s slide collection has been launched online as a database featuring 4,000 images of British design from the 1940s to the 1990s…

The Design Council – the national strategic body for UK design established in 1944 – owns thousands of images of a vast array of products (tableware, furniture, lighting etc), engineering components and machinery, as well photoraphy that relates to architectural projects, interior design, graphics and corporate identity.

Chair by Mary Little, postgraduate (furniture design ) RCA. October, 1985

Many of the images in their archives also record the Design Council’s own activities and promotional work – photographs from the Britain Can Make It and Festival of Britain exhibitions also feature in the collection. 

Panasonic solar powered calculator, 1987. January, 1988

The slide collection was transferred to the Manchester Metropolitan University in 1995, and since then a series of digitisation projects have resulted in over 13,000 images (nearly two-thirds of the collection) being made available online through the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS).

While many of the slides have understandably not stood up too well over time (the digitisation process has maintained all the visible scratches, not to mention some of the dubious lighting decisions made in the 1980s) the archive offers a great visual history of twentieth-century British design.

Ross Electronics radio. Design by Graham Thomson. Product Origination: Brand New, a division of Michael Peters Group, 1985

The Design Council slide collection can be viewed at, while all of the VADS collections are housed at

Woven Rug (wool and linen) by Tom Collins Designs. July / August, 1985


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