Many important things seem to be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Mini, Barbie and the beer can are just three icons turning 50 in 2009 and another one close to our hearts is Prince Philip’s Designers prize, also born in 1959.
Awarded annually to honour a landmark achievement in design, the prize is run by the Design Council and handed out by HRH himself. This being their half-centenary, the award was announced at Buckingham Palace and followed by a celebration of the very best of British design. Fittingly, given London’s ever-growing commitment to cycling, the 2009 winner is Andrew Ritchie, designer of the folding Brompton bike.
The panel, chaired by Prince Philip and including Peter Head, Kevin McCleod and Sir Michael Bichard, Chairman of the Design Council, the Brompton was praised for its portability, slick engineering and ease of its ride. Manufactured in the UK and sold throughout the world, Ritchie spent 21 years perfecting the design – an award-worthy exercise in patience and precision too.
The other nominees were an interesting mix of Wallpaper* names and establishment designers: David Adjaye, Hussein Chalayan, Peter Saville, Wayne Hemingway, Eric Parry, husband and wife graphic designers Jay Smith and Howard Milton, Jeff Banks and Michael Peters – the latter two received special commendations from the judges.
The Designers Prize principally champions progress and looking at the winners from the first 50 years what’s impressive is how pioneering British consumer and industrial design has consistently been. From the very first winner – the Prestcold Packaway refrigerator in 1959, by Charles Longman - up to the Brompton folding bike today, British design mightn’t grab the headlines that it has done in the past, but year after year the Designers Prize goes to show there’s still plenty worth celebrating.