The In-house Life: Evonne Mackenzie, V&A

In the latest in a series of interviews with creatives who are working in-house at brands and organisations, we hear from Evonne Mackenzie, head of design at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

Evonne Mackenzie has been head of design at the Victoria & Albert Museum since December 2018, where she oversees work across the V&A family, including the Museum of Childhood in London and the V&A Dundee. Evonne started out at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s centre for architecture and design, and has also programmed architecture, design and fashion for the British Council and worked as a producer at Heatherwick Studio.

She talked to us about the challenges of moving from a studio that is all about creating the ‘new’ to a 165-year-old institution, the importance of being a great advocate for design, and the complexities of designing for one of the world’s most famous museums.

This interview forms part of a series from the In-House Agency Leaders Club, created by consultancy WDC and ex-CR editor Patrick Burgoyne, which will explore the unique opportunities and complications of working in-house.

Top: Filthy Lucre exhibition, 2019, Exhibition and graphic design by V&A Design studio; Above: All Will be Well display, 2020. Exhibition and graphic design by V&A Design studio, lighting design by DHA; Images: Simon Kennedy

IHALC: Tell us about your role and what it encompasses.
Evonne Mackenzie: My role involves the design of everything for the museum that is ‘temporary’ and the remit is incredibly broad. In terms of discipline, it spans architecture, exhibitions, furniture, graphics, lighting, sound, audiovisual, illustration, photography, and I can also move between a marketing campaign to an exhibition, then a temporary display, leaflet, sign, visitor trail or an award trophy. That said, I’m not the only person who has responsibility for design and I also have amazing colleagues that lead on the design for digital, product and retail.

I’d say that my role and approach is primarily about trying to enable great design for the museum rather than about being a singular design voice. Coming to the museum, I knew I didn’t want to make everything all my way because that’s the antithesis of what I love about the V&A. Instead, I wanted to embrace the variety and amplify the world-building that I’d always loved. For each project, venue or audience the aim is to try to uncover the right design approach and to make space for multiple design voices and perspectives – both within the team and from design collaborators, which I think enriches the museum and the design output.