Day created the iconic polypropylene stacking chair and rose to prominence during the 1951 Festival of Britain, when he designed the furniture for the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.
He was made a Royal Designer for Industry in 1959 and was also awarded the Minerva Medal by the Chartered Society of Designers.
Day was also a keen mountaineer, climbing the 1700m Mount Kenya at the age of 76. In his sixties he undertook a 2500km journey across northern Scandinavia on Nordic skis.
Day died on 9 November. His wife, textile designer Lucienne Day, died last year.
Terence Conran says, ’Robin was symbolic of the Festival of Britain, where the UK eventually cast off its Edwardian mantle. But curiously enough, my early memories of Robin are actually of jealousy. While most of us were welding away in a back room making our own designs in a rather unsophisticated manner, Robin had the backing of the manufacturer Hille and his work was more refined.’
Conran adds, ’In so many ways he was ahead of his time and one of the first to fully use the mass-manufacturing opportunities of injection moulding. His work at the time felt iconic but has that timeless quality and still looks fantastic today. He was a true champion of British design and a generous, humorous and kind man with it.’
Mike Dempsey, past master of the Royal Designers for Industry, says, ‘Together with his wife Lucienne they were the Eameses of Great Britain. Robin’s contribution to furniture design was second to none – many of his creations are still being manufactured today. It’s a great loss – he’s somebody who spent his life devoting himself to design.’
Dempsey adds, ‘Robin’s polypropylene chair is in every school in the country, I’ve even seen it in canoes in Africa. He’s had more bums on his seats than anybody else.’
Peter Spence, director of the South Coast Design Forum, of which Day was patron, says, ‘For SCDF, Robin was key to the establishment of the organisation. In the early years he was a source of inspiration to me personally just by agreeing to be patron. To have an internationally renowned figure take an interest in our early steps was invaluable in opening doors and giving the organisation credence.’
Spence adds, ‘Not only was Robin a source of wisdom and wit, he made himself available to attend our social functions, amusing and entertaining us with stories of his mountaineering activities.’
Dejan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, says, ‘Robin Day was a remarkable designer, who in his long career, mostly working alongside his wife, the gifted textile designer Lucienne Day, never ran out of energy. His curiosity in the world around him made him as relevant competing with Charles Eames for prizes at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1940s, as he was in the context of the London of the present day.’