DS.E views: Best of British

We asked the DS.Emotion team to tell us a little about how British ideas and innovation have inspired them. In this blog, our team highlights the best creatives and creativity. We get to the core of what has made the UK a cultural and artistic hub: the envy of the world over.

Angle Poise Lamp

Angus Armitage, Co-founder

The angle poise lamp (aka balanced arm lamp) is a design by George Carwardine, first developed in 1932.
 Carwardine was actually a car designer, and at the time
 of designing the lamp he was designing vehicle suspension systems. Despite many claims to the contrary, his concept had nothing whatsoever to do with mimicking the actions of the human arm.

He manufactured the first four spring lamps himself in his workshop in Bath to start with. Once demand grew he entered into a partnership with Herbert Terry & Sons to manufacture and market his lamp. In 1935 a 3-spring angle poise lamp was released for the domestic market, which is the same design produced today. It has to be one of the most mimicked/replicated pieces of product design anywhere in the world.

‘Really Good’ sculpture

Will Asken, Senior Designer

The art of David Shrigley revels in sarcasm and self-deprecation, values that perfectly capture our country’s sense of humour. His work finds inspiration in everything from the absurdist tradition of Monty Python to the DIY ethic of the punk movement.

Shrigley’s piece for the Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth – a 10ft tall bronze sculpture titled ‘Really Good’ – is a shining example of a uniquely British phenomenon; the ability to feel both celebratory and pessimistic in the same moment. Given the disgruntled reaction of the armchair critics, Shrigley’s work has also given many the chance to indulge in our favourite national pastime – having a good moan.

Sex Pistols

Laura Chadwick, Managing Director

The tone and sentiment of this statement perfectly embodies the attitudes of the working class at the time. Johnny Rotten et al.’s assault on the Queen and establishment in their infamous 1977 track stuck two fingers up at the system. It paved the way for the Gallaghers to literally do the same years later, in the peak of the Cool Britannia/Brit Pop era.

The album cover design, by Jamie Reid, is a personal favourite of mine. Its colour pops and screen print lettering look fantastic on my living room wall!

Storm Thorgerson

James Bornshin, Senior Designer

Storm Thorgerson’s style was fantastical and clever, but at times extremely simple. It was groundbreaking in the 70s when he was at his most experimental. Whilst I didn’t know who Storm or Hipgnosis were at the time, their album covers interested me when I was getting into new types of music in my teens. I was always intrigued as to what the meanings were behind his work. I would try to work out why he had done what he did and how he did it, all without the aid of Photoshop.

Ben Kelly

Dan Bedford, Group Creative Director

The first time I stepped foot inside one of Ben Kelly’s creations would have been around 1988/89. That building was FAC51, The Hacienda. The building was unassuming from
the outside, a redbrick warehouse style building that looked pretty much like any other building
 in most northern towns and cities. Inside it was like nothing else I had seen before.

Zaha Mohammad Hadid

Razi Riahi, Strategy Director – Placemaking

Dame Zaha Hadid is the greatest female 
architect of contemporary times, renowned for her disregard for dull functionality and penchant for experimentation. Against the odds, she became the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize. She has reshaped architecture; not compromising for practical or technological constraints – her designs are intricate. Renowned commissions include: London Olympic Aquatic Centre and Guangzhou Opera House.

Sir Jonathan Ive

James Newson, Design Director

I have lived Apple for the past
 25 years in both my job and personal life. Sir Jonathan Ive – the chief design officer of Apple
– is the man with the concepts 
that turned Apple’s fortunes around. He was 
the man who brought the computer right in to 
our homes, in a guise that was fun, quirky – and covetable. The first Mac was a design icon. With the iMac, iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and iPad, he transformed the way we work and play. He married tech with functional creativity and beauty. In doing so, he’s been a game-changer not just for Apple, but for the whole category of communications technology.

Jamie Hewlett

Jason Wan, Senior Digital Designer

Hewlett’s character designs are very unique. I was first introduced to his work when I saw the 
first Gorillaz album cover back in college
 and just fell in love with the art style. When I heard that Damon Albarn (another favourite creative of mine) was creating a cartoon band I was very excited to see the results. I discovered afterwards he also did the comic book for Tank Girl. I enjoy doing my own illustrations so he was a big influence for me in developing my own style.

Yoni Lappin and Mura Masa

Charmaine Charamba, Account Executive

When they create something together, it just works. If you’ve ever seen a Mura Masa music video, then you will understand what I mean. My favourite collaboration with them has to be What If I Go because vulnerability and youth culture articulated well in both the music and video. Even the single cover is cool.

Queen Elizabeth II

Harry Peck, Senior Account Executive

Whether you are a royalist or not, Queen Elizabeth II is a true British icon. When I personally think
 of the Queen I don’t get too excited by the 
pomp, fancy dress outfits and castles. I’m blown away by her work ethic, strength 
and consistency. If asked to describe, ‘What is Britishness?’ you’ll soon realise the majority of culture is borrowed or stolen. We must look beyond the material to the values of the people. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor is a role model for Britain, with Britishness driving every day of her 66-year reign.

David Bowie

Kate Chisnall, Junior Account Executive

One of the most influential British artists of
 all time. It goes without saying that Bowie is an unbelievably cool (and wonderfully weird) self-proclaimed gender-bender. His innovation and reinvention of music, fashion, and his alter-ego has inspired so much of British culture. From rock ‘n’ rock to punk to pop, Bowie is a musical genius whose fearless legacy will continue to inspire generations.

The sandwich

Natasha Bonfield, Junior Designer

The sandwich is perhaps the most innovative example of national creative that you can buy for £2.99. The pre-prepared triangle sandwich is the pinnacle of British ingenuity. Since stores like M&S and Pret a Manger introduced the packaged sandwich to the market nearly 40 years ago, the industry has adapted to mercurial culinary fads while simultaneously remaining a mainstay of the British lunchtime. After all, what’s more quintessentially British than a ploughman’s in a tearaway box?

Sgt. Pepper

Rachael Whale, Designer

Sir Peter Blake is one of the best known British pop artists and also a leading figure in the pop art movement. When studying Graphic Design in college and university, Blake’s work was inspirational. He blended the new youthful popular culture 
and the pop music scene as well as producing a lot
 of commercial art in the form of graphics and album covers. His most significant piece of work was his design for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

The colourful collage of life-sized cardboard cut-outs depicting more than 70 famous people not only became one of the most recognisable album sleeves of all time but it is also a display of modern art that defines its era.

Vivienne Westwood

Matt Button, Co-founder

The first time I was aware of a designer’s own brand presence on the high street was Vivienne Westwood’s boutique on the King’s Road, once known as ‘SEX’. It was her ability to synthesise clothing and music that helped shape the 1970s UK punk scene, dominated by the band the Sex Pistols managed by Malcom McLaren who also helped Westwood design collections for the band as well becoming Westwood’s partner. This brave retail destination purposefully positioned itself as anti-establishment and of course, in turn, became an iconic landmark for those keen to associate themselves with this ‘scene.’

Westwood, the architect of this punk fashion phenomenon went on to open four shops in London, eventually expanding throughout
the United Kingdom and the world, selling an increasingly varied range of merchandise, some of it linked to her many political causes such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, climate change and civil rights groups.

To respond to consumer high street spending which is currently under pressure, Westwood has launched her latest collection with the suggestion to ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’ – these
 are, to me, wise and timely words from the remarkable and enduring Vivienne Westwood
– The Queen of Punk.

Which people and brands do you think represents the best of British?

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