Hot 50: V-W

The Victoria and Albert Museum has always been a patron of design. It makes the Hot 50 this year as one of London’s, and indeed the world’s, greatest museums of art and design.

Victoria and Albert Museum:

The Victoria and Albert Museum has always been a patron of design. It makes the Hot 50 this year as one of London’s, and indeed the world’s, greatest museums of art and design.

Over the past two years, the museum completed the first phase of its £120m renovation scheme FuturePlan, masterminded by Eva Jiricna Architects. Last year, EJA completed the new gallery that houses 3500 pieces of jewellery. In 2006, EJA also improved the main entrance, the centrally located Gallery 43 that houses the new museum shop, and the Modernism exhibition.

FuturePlan is making the gallery easier to navigate and access, giving more open space.

Phase two is expected to launch after the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, designed by architect Muma, open in November, but it still remains quite speculative pending a feasibility study – the museum remains tight-lipped while it is still raising funds.


Vitsoe is not a new company. The London shelving specialist has long been a player on the scene, best known for its work with German design giant Dieter Rams on the 606 Universal Shelving System, designed in 1960.

But it has taken a stronger stance than its rivals on environmental issues, largely courtesy of its London managing director Mark Adams, whose name has become synonymous with that of Vitsoe in the UK. He met Niels Vitsoe, a Dane, and Rams in 1985 and decided to import the product himself when the original company went bankrupt.

Adams uses the Vitsoe showroom in Marylebone for exhibitions and other events. But it is his regular appearance on platforms at the Design Council and beyond to debate sustainability in design that has earned the company a place in this listing.

Vitsoe’s products are bought largely by architects and other specifiers because of the company’s aesthetic coupled with its sustainability claims. By creating iconic classics, it ensures its products will last for life and not become fashion items.

Almost 50 years isn’t bad going for a shelving range.

The Web:

This year’s Hot 50 judges were keen to acknowledge the interactivity and scope for user-generated content on the Web as a mode of communication. It’s gone way beyond blogging now, though blogs are still key.

The Web has become an increasingly democratic way of disseminating and discussing a plethora of design issues that affect or interest us all.

Blogs and discussion groups occur on small, and relatively local, scales. For example,, developed by Chris O’Shea, offers a series of events focusing on the stories behind interaction design.

Then there’s Nico Macdonald’s, which looks into communication, facilitation, research and consultancy around design and technology issues, and Russell Davies’ ‘interesting’ take on blogging, at

On a more international stage,, which has been going since 1984, shows a different aspect of the same phenomenon.

Its ideas on technology, entertainment and design have been brought more to our attention recently, because of improved video functionality on the Web.

It is the community building aspect of the Web that has exploded this year. A day hardly goes by without most of us getting Facebook or Linkedin requests.

Social interaction groups continue to grow and modify the way people interact online. It is important we recognise this changing phenomenon.

Tony Wilson:

The late Tony Wilson was a driving force for the regeneration of Manchester from the early 1980s.

A music mogul and a passionate advocate for the rebirth of the city after the IRA bombings, he set up the legendary Haçienda Club, designed by Ben Kelly. The club inspired bars and clubs all over the country and fostered the music industry icons who filtered though its doors.

Initially a TV presenter, Wilson was a founding partner of Factory Records, with Alan Erasmus. The independent record label started in January 1978 with record producer Martin Hannett and graphic designer Peter Saville. They gave the label its own sound, image and artwork.

Those who knew Wilson recall his inspiration, his ability to engage with people and his determination to put Manchester on the map for its music and vibrant nightlife.

In 2006, his consultancy Livesay Wilson Ideas Management, a company set up with his long-term partner Yvette Livesay, was involved in an ambitious design plan to breathe new life into east Lancashire.

Sadly, Wilson lost his battle with cancer in August 2007, aged 57. In his memory, Saville masterminded The Tony Wilson Experience, billed as the longest-ever intelligent conversation. On 28 July 2008, young people with an interest in the creative arts took part in a non-stop 24-hour series of workshops with some of the biggest names from the music industry, screenwriting, broadcasting, writing, design, photography and film.

Michael Wolff:

Michael Wolff is one of those people who brings sheer joy to design. A seminal creative in his own right, he has spent the past few years fostering up-and-coming design groups – SAS, NB Studio and Together Design are among those who have benefited from his patronage – working with clients as diverse as Mothercare and the ill-fated MFI to establish great communication through design.

Wolff partnered Wally Olins in setting up Wolff Olins in the 1980s. Though that consultancy is history for both of them, their influence remains. Both are still working and running great projects.

Wolff has remained a reluctant activist in design, but he rarely declines when asked to impart his wisdom on others, or to judge awards. His generosity of spirit, and generosity with his time, is legendary within the industry.

Campaigns he has unwittingly launched in recent months include the bid to get the organisers of the 2012 London Olympic Games to take design seriously, and a dialogue to change perceptions of, and the terminology surrounding, dementia.

Over recent months, Wolff has been involved with regional group Creative Republic in trying to bring design leadership to the city of Birmingham. London Mayor Boris Johnson would do well to heed his efforts there, especially as the nation’s capital rapidly approaches the 2012 Olympics without a design czar on the team.

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