It is with great sadness that we pay tribute to Peta Levi, the ceaseless fighter for design who lost her own battle against illness last week . The founder of London’s annual graduate show New Designers, Design Nation, the Eureka! initiative and much more, she was unstinting in her support of so many young designers starting out and as they progressed their businesses.
Few people can claim to match Levi’s influence on UK design. Terence Conran has done more than most to promote quality design on the commercial stage, changing the way we live, eat and shop in the process; John and Frances Sorrell continue to introduce school students and their teachers to design, involving them in the process to change the school environment; professional bodies like D&AD and the Design Business Association are charged with helping their members to gain stature; and consultancies do their bit to encourage designers on their teams. But Levi somehow made it personal.
She also forged influential collaborations – with New Designers’ host The Business Design Centre, with the Crafts Council and through Eureka!, and with retailers, to name a few.
A journalist by background, Levi was a pioneer in promoting new talents to the media. She knew that quirky projects give good copy, as does charting a designer’s rise from obscurity to success. Her focus on design over more than 20 years coincided neatly with an interest in lifestyle within the national media and the regular airtime that has brought.
What started out for Levi mainly on the crafts side – half of the small designer-maker enterprises in London’s Hackney probably owe her a debt of honour – broadened to take on other areas such as graphics, interiors and digital design
Her legacy lives on through New Designers and her other ventures, as well as the initiatives set up to ape or complement them. We will miss her feisty character though, and desperately need more design champions like her.