You would have thought a can of baked beans that can be opened
without severing an artery would surely be worthy of an award. But it
The fact that it has not been invented yet goes some way to explaining
why the said can has failed to make it into the pantheon of industrial
designs which are to fill the Millennium Dome.
Nor did I see a bottle of bathroom cleaner fitted with a nozzle which
remains free of gunge.
In fact there was not a single product from the world of fast-moving
consumer goods represented in Millennium Products, the showcase of
British design, which we are told, is at the vanguard of a PR campaign
to show the rest of the world that British industrial design has come a
long way since the days of the Austin Princess.
So when Prime Minister Tony Blair examined the products on show did we
hear him cry: ’You know this is something that Cherie and I would find
really useful in the kitchen - and it only costs pounds 3.50.’ No we did
Instead, paraded before Blair and the press were some truly astounding
products and inventions that could change lives on a scale that perhaps
the easy-open can could not. This was the work of the good and
It was not the work of the new product development department at
The Rolls-Royce jet engine with turbine blades which, if broken, grow
back from a single molecule, or the escape chute from a ferry that
rights itself in a stormy sea were hailed as fine examples to which
every company should aspire.
Little surprise then that the more prosaic objects inhabiting our lives
were not chosen as a means of laying down a challenge to British
What chance has a potato peeler that saves time got against a simple,
yet effective, water bucket that saves lives in the Third World? But, I
am assured, this does not mean the doors to the exhibition will remain
shut if your product lacks that altruistic quality or is insufficiently
ambitious to impress the panel of 50 judges.
Among those on the panel are figures which hail from the world of
marketing: John Hegarty of Bartle Bogle Hegarty; Simon Bullimore of
Mars, and The Ministry of Sound’s James Palumbo. They are not there
simply to make up numbers. They were chosen by the Design Council to
cast judgement on behalf of the marketing community. They are there to
ask questions such as: ’Yes, this is fascinating but will it sell?’ or
’What does it say about British design?’ The exercise is, after all,
just another element of the marketing mix that Blair is employing to
sell brand Britain to foreign buyers and investors.
It would be easy to ignore the calls for creativity in favour of gains
in productivity, to ignore the demands this government is making of a
business community that has just cast off the crutches that saw it
through the recession. That is why it is unlikely the phone lines
between the design community and FMCG manufacturers will be busy as they
strive to make the deadline.
I doubt the can will make it into Peter Mandelson’s dome. Then again, I
doubt the dome will even make it.