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Make or Break

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In 1946 the Victoria & Albert Museum held Britain Can Make it, an exhibition of British industry's design products for the post-war era staged to encourage high standards in design. A hugely popular event, its role in underlining the centrality of design and the designer in industrial culture was immense. Make or Break reconstructs much of the substance and many of the themes of this project, illuminating its intentions and impact, namely the impact of the war on manufacturers and designers and the idealistic ethos pervading the era as the transition was made from war-time utility to export drives and design for progress.

Ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, electrical goods, book covers and graphics, fashion, textiles, accessories and a prototype streamlined bicycle are among the selection, which features many durable consumer brands, complemented by a video installation and evocations of the original exhibition.

Exhibition curators: Dr Penny Sparke and Lucy Bullivant
Researchers: Susannah Handley, Anne Gardener and Amy de la Haye
Exhibition design: John Small
Graphic design: Lilian Lindblom
Sponsors: Department of Trade and Industry, Design Council, London Regional Transport, Manchester City Art Gallery,
Central Office of Information, Christie-Tyler Ltd, Courtaulds Ltd, Dimplex Heating, Dufalyte, Ercol, Formica Ltd,
Hepworth Iron Company, ICI plc, Metal Box plc, Ravenhead Company, Sedgwick Group plc, TI Group plc, Warner and Sons Ltd
Venues: Royal College of Art, London, Sept-Oct 1986; Manchester City Art Gallery, Nov-Dec 1986