Hot fifty – Sir John Sorrell

If a knighthood doesn’t qualify you for a place in the Hot 50, it would be difficult to know what does. An award in the New Year’s Honours List therefore puts Sir John Sorrell here as an untiring champion of design.


Sorrell is quick to point out that he feels the honour is shared with his wife and business partner Frances. She has appeared in the Hot 50 previously in her own right, largely through her work with the charity Mencap and on design education with The Sorrell Foundation, the charity she and John set up in 1999 to address social issues through design, putting users of social services in the client role.


Sorrell’s honour recognises a commitment to the creative industries that goes way beyond the work of the foundation. He had already been awarded a CBE, prompted largely by his chairmanship of the Design Council in the mid-1990s when he created a blueprint for the council as it is today.


But he has since set up the annual London Design Festival, which celebrates its fifth year in September, and chaired the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, which seeks to maintain quality standards in British architecture, among other things.


A graphic designer by training, Sorrell co-founded Newell and Sorrell with his wife. The London consultancy was subsumed into Interbrand in the 1990s following a merger. The rest is history.

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