Designer, restaurateur and business mogul Sir Terence Conran has died over the weekend at the age of 88.
He leaves behind him a lengthy career in design which is credited with shaping much of home life in the latter part of the 20th century, while being a vocal ambassador for designers and promoting the public’s understanding of design.
Conran touched the lives of designers in the UK and beyond, both directly and indirectly. His legacies include interiors store Habitat, the eponymous Conran Shop and London’s Design Museum.
As is to be expected, news of his death has sparked an outpouring of admiration for the designer from the creative community.
Many from the design industry chose to focus their tributes on his immense contributions to their field.
Conran famously worked to bring good design to the masses. On Twitter, V&A director Tristram Hunt described the designer’s mission as a “radical belief in the public’s right to great design”.
So sorry to hear of the death of Sir Terence Conran: a British visionary with a radical belief in the public’s right to great design. A generous, supportive & long time, if sometimes frustrated, friend to @V_and_A. A great loss to UK art, design & culture.
— Tristram Hunt (@TristramHuntVA) September 12, 2020
Farewell to Sir Terence Conran, he’s been at the forefront of design all my life. A true visionary of British design & an inspiration to so many of us. I worked just around the corner from @TheConranShop in Fulham Road so popped in most days to admire their immaculate curations. pic.twitter.com/XhSHNWhP2p
— Ashton House Design (@ashtonhouse_des) September 13, 2020
Sir Terrance Conran a true visionary who wanted ordinary people to experience and live with great design. @thedesignmuseum Is his legacy. Success is not measured by what you amass in life; but by the impact we make. RIP
— Tony Ryan (@DesTechRyan) September 12, 2020
Public Digital CEO and Royal Designer for Industry Ben Terrett echoed Hunt’s words online: [He] made high quality design affordable for millions.” In a further comment to Design Week, Terrett goes on to say that while he never worked with Conran, he was inspired from an “early age”.
“There are far too few designers that put equal weight on both [business and design],” he says. “It’s essential for business and for designers that both go hand in hand — Terence understood this better than anyone and proved that the combination could be seismic.”
Elsewhere, illustrator Rebecca Sutherland tells us about the indelible mark he left on her own life: “As a child of the 60s my brothers and I were given Habitat toys – a wooden zoo set in a truck and trailer – we still have it.”
“When Habitat arrived in Ipswich in the 1980s I saved up and purchased the ubiquitous anglepoise for the years I would spend as a student of art,” she continues. “Then the year after I graduated The Design Museum opened on Shad Thames and in my new role as a designer our company headed to this Mecca from across the Thames by riverboat.”
“Terrance Conran was not just a faraway designer. He was visionary in showing us how to live. He leaves the world (and me) better for having been here.”
Terribly sad news. Made a huge contribution to design and Britain. Made high quality design affordable for millions. https://t.co/tmsb5V1R1l
— Ben Terrett (@benterrett) September 12, 2020
RIP Sir Terence Conran, who did so much to introduce and nurture design. He leaves the world better for having been here. pic.twitter.com/7qtPMAjOXK
— Becky Sutherland (@Beckybim) September 12, 2020
Thank you Terence Conran for making the world a better place.
— Studio Hopwood (@Danielhopwood) September 12, 2020
Others chose to share words from the man himself, which had touched or inspired their craft.
Conran would often speak on the role of the designer in the world as a force for good change. At other times, he would reflect on his own career. Spanish designer and lecturer Lefteris Heretakis quotes Conran giving thought to his successes: “It’s like, gosh, all my dreams have come true.”
"It's thrilling as a designer when you see something you've designed+built actually being used, seeing a shop filled with people, a restaurant with people smiling away happily, it's like, gosh, all my dreams have come true." Sir Terence Conran @ContentbyTChttps://t.co/6GVxXCrywQ
— Lefteris Heretakis ⭐ (@heretakis) September 14, 2020
“I have lived my life in a constant state of nervousness. I think that’s true for many people who build a career in a creative industry. You are always being judged.”
– Terence Conran
— Seun. (@EniyanPataki) September 13, 2020
The designer's job is to imagine the world not how it is but how it should be — Terence Conran
— Meghan Lazier (@meglaz) September 13, 2020
UsTwo managing director Nicki Sprinz tells Design Week about her “very worn, much-loved yellow Conran sofa”, which she inherited from her uncle, as she thinks about the designer’s output.
“Habitat permeated so many homes showing us that good design can improve our lives,” she says. “His contribution was remarkable — his legacy of democratising design is one that I hope we all continue to practice today.”
With Conran’s vast portfolio of shops, restaurants and products, news of his death provoked some to reflect on their time working in these places and their quirks and cherishing products from his hand.
Sorry to hear of the death of Sir Terence Conran. Memories of the best ever Saturday job at @HabitatUK wrapping endless Paris goblets, chicken bricks and Denmark Blue crockery. (Trying not to remember the green sweatshirt/denim skirt uniform.)
— Liz Shaw (@Liz_Shaw) September 13, 2020
I worked at Conran Roche in the 1990s (which seems an unfeasibly long time ago) and was hugely influenced by Terence Conran’s focus on the central role of good design in making great places. Much work still to be done! https://t.co/ocmNFZ5ee2
— David Littlejohn (@PlanningHeadPKC) September 13, 2020
And while employment at his various stores was limited, the experience of shopping there seemed enough for some.
I'll really miss #TerenceConran he made shopping for home wear at Habitat cool and exciting, even without much cash you could buy something of quality that was well designed. I once had a job interview at the Conran Shop for the position of display designer, didn't get it !
— Sara Worley (@SaraW18) September 13, 2020
Though his influence was perhaps most felt in the UK, Conran’s work inspired and touched designers across the globe and as such tributes in the days following his death have come from both here and further afield.
The Sydney Design School in Australia sums up how much of the world felt about the designer. In a tribute, it concludes that “the world will be less vibrant without him in it”.
Vale Sir Terence Conran. We are saddened to hear of the design legend's passing. The world will be less vibrant without him in it, but he leaves behind an incredible legacy of ideas, innovation and good design.
Photo 1: Conran and his Cone Chair 1950s.
Photo 2: By Julian Broad pic.twitter.com/392ojB7YIb
— Sydney Design School (@SydDesignSchool) September 14, 2020
Sir Terence Conran died on 12 September 2020. He is survived by his wife Vicki, his five children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The banner image for this page depicts the Head of Invention, a sculpture created for Conran by Eduardo Paolozzi in 1989. It sits in the grounds of the Design Museum.