July 3 2011: DIY Dining Set Design by Kenneth Alan Phillips (Homemaker Magazine, April 1969)
The text on the two-page spread below, from the April 1969 issue of Homemaker: Incorporating Easy His And Her Do-It-Yourself Magazine gives the following information about the winning designer of its DIY furniture competition: “Twenty-three year-old Kenneth Alan Phillips of Ardath Road, Leicester, works in industrial architecture as part of a team that carries out major extensions and designs new factories for a textile firm. Occasionally, too, he gets the chance to design exhibition stands and interiors for his company, and that adds variety to his work. He is due to marry Miss Diane Hollis this month (April) and is at present very much involved in planning his new home. And of course, no doubt his £250 prize will come in very handy for that, too…”. I wonder if Phillips is still in the city? And if he is, what he may have gone on to do in later life?
It’s an intriguing snippet from a particular moment that here stands by itself, inviting us to guess at how things turned out: with the career, marriage and more besides. The furniture he creates here stands as part of an optimistic time when design and rationality were seen as keys to improving standards of living: after this came the oil shocks, recession and a determined back-pedalling on the very idea of progress that is still very much with us, though the designs themselves became the templates for self-assembly furniture, as sold into a mass market by companies like IKEA. Perhaps the lesson is that the pursuit of one outcome (the democratisation of good design) does not necessarily bring with it a contribution to any wider objective, in this case a more general kind of democratisation at the economic and political level.