Gordon Russell’s life and work
Gordon Russell was a design pioneer – a furniture designer, maker, calligrapher, entrepreneur, educator, and champion of accessible, well crafted design. Schooled in the Arts and Crafts tradition of the Cotswolds he believed that good design has a lasting impact on people’s lives. His great skill was making connections between hand and machine, craft and design, theory and practice, landscape and architecture.
the machine manners
Gordon Russell believed that the hand crafted tradition of British cabinet making could be fused with the possibilities of the machine. He succeeded in creating mass produced furniture that retained a strong sense of tradition and insistence on the highest possible standards of craftsmanship. Whether attained by hand or machine his vision was bound up in the pursuit of quality.
A champion of design
For Gordon Russell good design could lift the human spirit. He believed in democratising design, making it accessible to many, not just the few, ‘I want to make decent furniture for ordinary people’. After World War II, he focused his attention on bringing Britain out of its bombed out austerity by promoting and developing the British design industry. He helped to establish and then became director of the Council of Industrial Design (now the Design Council) and had a profound influence on British industry, design and education.
A lasting legacy
Throughout his life Gordon Russell was committed to honest design, superb craftsmanship, quality, detailing and a belief in the impact of good design on people’s lives. He delivered this message to an international community of both manufacturers and the public alike. His legacy lives on in Britain’s vibrant design industry.
The 20th Century was a period of enormous
cultural and social change and development.
Gordon Russell’s life and career spanned many
of these momentous changes, from the tragedy
of two world wars, to the triumph of the first man
on the moon. Explore a timeline of his life and
see how his work connected with global events,
from the birth of Modernism to the election of
Britain’s first female Prime Minister.
Explore the timeline