Voxpop – What is your favourite example of a Great British product?

The Science Museum is hosting the Make it in Great Britain exhibition next
summer, which aims to highlight British manufacturing. Which example of a
Great British product, made in the UK, do you think should be in the show?

Wayne Hemingway

Source: photograph by Rebecca Reid

‘It’s got to be G Plan Sofas. We forget that iconic brands like this are still hand-made here. There is a new range of G Plan Sofas coming out in 2012 which will remind people just how wonderful the provenance is of this great British brand and that allied with great design, what a great future British manufactured products can have.’

Wayne Hemingway, founder Hemingway Design  

Andrea Siodmok

‘I still recall the 1980s “Made in Britain” campaign that had the reverse effect of making UK consumers less likely to buy British goods. While times have changed, we should avoid getting nostalgic. Britain is now part of a globally interconnected marketplace with a well-earned reputation for design. I would therefore proffer the McLaren MP412C supercar from one of the world’s most advanced factories (in Woking) with a global design team and a two-and-a-half year waiting- list – as it shows how great Britain can be when manufacturing gets design.’

Andrea Siodmok, independent design consultant specialising in social and service design innovation and former programme director of Dott Cornwall

Chris Mather

’A design classic. In the hugely competitive and crowded sportswear/streetwear fashion industry, the iconic Fred Perry laurel wreath remains one of the best-known and most instantly recognisable logos worldwide. The Fred Perry shirt’s great achievement is that it not only captures the authenticity, heritage and integrity of a time when British tennis players could still win Wimbledon, but has successfully carried this through subsequent generations and a whole series of stylish subcultures from the mods and skinheads of the 60s to the Britpop groups of the mid 90s, remaining as contemporary and popular as ever today.’

Chris Mather, managing director Mather & Co

Chris Waggott

’Personally I believe there should be a spot for the brand new Norton Commando motorcycle, revival of the classic British mark made between 1967 and 1977. Steeped in racing history including a win at the famous Isle of Man TT, the Iconic brand has found a new home at Donington Park racecourse, where they are manufacturing an all-new updated version of the Commando. I am really excited by seeing some of these Great British products being brought back from the dead, and the country getting back to one of the things it does best. Making things.’

Christopher Waggott, co-founder Designers Front

Tim Pyne

’Pre-Thatcher manufacturing aside, and omitting the usual suspects Maclaren, Brompton and Dyson (though not even he’s eligible now), you quickly get down to carpet tiles. One which is clever is Peezy, a product that a friend of mine launched ten years ago to make it easier for women get a mid-stream urine sample, which I am reliably informed is a very useful thing. I watched its birth and the subsequent uphill struggle of getting just about anything made here. Anyway she pulled it off and by ’eck it’s made in Colliers Wood.’

Tim Pyne, architect and founder of m-house and m-hotel

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  • andrew capper November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The 5 examples in this Voxpop are a real reflection of the state of design innovation through to manufacture in GB. How sad!

    • We have a super premium, niche car manufacturer that produces a hand full of cars each year that are only accessible to the super rich.

    • A quintessentially English clothing label now owned and making money for a Japanese corporation.

    • A medical device – a worthy product no doubt solving an undeniable need, but is a niche, non consumer facing product.

    • A nostalgic motorcycle brand that has gasped it’s way through the last 50 years, being passed around like a hot potato because its products were trounced by superior, more reliable and cheaper designs from abroad. (why not choose Triumph which is actually redefining whole sectors of the bike market?)

    • And a furniture brand that I personally think is fantastic, but to most consumers generates a smirk and brings back 70’s memories of flares, fondue and nylon sheets!

    If the same question was asked to five designers from say either Italy, Germany, America or Japan, do you think they would face the same challenge? No, their issue would be choosing ONLY 5 from the orgy of brands and products designed and manufactured on their doorstep.

  • David O'Coimin November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Between the lines of the ‘readily brought to mind’ success stories are many examples of brilliant British Innovation, quietly making their way at home and in the world.

    One such is Somerset-based Kell Systems. We make a Server Room in a Box, essentially a soundproofed enclosure for putting IT in the office, class room, lab, home etc.

    At Kell over the last 7 or so years we have re-trained traditional kitchen fitters, developed & evolved a revolutionary market changing product, won several inspiring local & international awards, and included the whole company, from tip to toe, in the process of innovation.

    Ive personally learned that you cant force Creativity & Innovation by putting it in your Manifesto or Business Plan, you have to build it in to your attitude, into your approach to every question, into your DNA as such.

    Innovation is one of those elements that, like design in general, has to be invested in. It takes time and nurturing for it to flourish. It requires patience. Even faith.

    British firms, 95% of which are 10 people or less apparently, have such enormous potential. Lists like this shine a spot light on our industries and our abilities, they make us take stock, think about our place in the world, where we are, where we want to be. Whether you find this list inspiring because its great, or because you think we can do better, whatever the reason, get off your backside and do something about it.

    Talk is cheap. Make something.

  • Giovanna Forte November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Peezy: niche, non-consumer-facing product? Might I introduce the ill-informed, ill-researched Mr Capper to a device for which there is a global market of about 600m. It is used by women, who I believe qualify as consumers? Oh, and the elderly and children but perhaps they aren’t consumers either? At any rate, providing these non-consumers with product that provides accurate diagnosis and treatment obviously isn’t “design” in his book. But Mr Capper, you’re right on one count: consumer facing – it isn’t – is used at the other end, the niche end.

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