The design world comes together to celebrate the life and work of Sir Terence Conran

Designers have been paying tribute to the late designer, who was responsible for creating and popularising many of the home comforts we’ve come to love.

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”.

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.”

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.”

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.

And while employment at his various stores was limited, the experience of shopping there seemed enough for some.

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”.

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.

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