The public face of design in the mid 60’s was very much that of product design. In 1944, the Council of Industrial Design had been founded by Hugh Dalton, and in 1956 the first Design Centre opened in Haymarket, London, followed a few years later by the Manchester Design Centre. Slowly the little black and white triangles of the Design Centre label started to appear on consumer products in stores. This was seen as some elitist endorsement and not really something to concern the masses. Such was the professional face of design and apart from the cogniscente, few ordinary people were conscious of the role of the designer.
It is little wonder that it had been a hidden world to a boy from a terraced house in Salford – and a difficult concept for me to communicate to my parents as a possible career path. In hindsight, my academic progress must have been a mystery to them from the day I began grammar school. They came from a pre-war generation. The majority of their friends and relations having left school at 14 or 15 to move straight into employment. So maybe it was out of a general sense of bemusement that they agreed to my signing the enrolment forms – though I don’t believe my mother ever really understood what I did for a living throughout my working life.
Thanks to their open minds, I found myself on the foundation course in art and design. This was a blessing, in terms of both what it taught me and in introducing to me the otherwise unknown discipline of graphic design.