Perhaps they were icons, two of the 20 pieces displayed at last month’s Cambridge Design Icons exhibition have graduated to the V&A’s ‘British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age’ exhibition, accompanied by another pair that weren’t in the Anglia Ruskin show.
The sleek Lecson Audio System and Sinclair’s rubbery ZX Spectrum have both been selected as important representations of British technological and design innovation to have taken place between two London-hosted Olympic Games, the 1948 Austerity Games and this summer’s Olympics.
The ZX Spectrum is considered by many to be the vanguard of the British home computing revolution in the 1980s, which ended as something of a glorious failure whilst acting as an inspiration to a generation of computer scientists, something the recently released and enormously popular Raspberry Pi is trying to recreate.
While the ZX Spectrum’s great rival, the BBC Micro, is not at the V&A, the man who designed its casing is. Allen Boothroyd was the aesthetic brains behind the classic 1974 Lecson system which had a sound to match thanks to engineer Bob Stuart – the two went on to found Meridian Audio.
The groundbreaking design rejected convention at the time in favour of sleek glossy black cylinders and a slimline look bursting with small but powerful pockets of colour. It is considered aesthetically important enough that a unit remains on permanent display at the New York Museum of Modern Art and would not sit out of place on the drawing board of Jonathan Ive at Apple.
Cambridge’s representation at the event is bolstered further by at two other iconic exhibits. These include Concorde’s famous droop nose cone, developed by Marshall Aeropace, and the legendary space trading computer game Elite, designed by David Braben and Ian Bell.
Boothroyd said he was pleased the design has been included: “We are very proud that one of our earliest and most influential products has been selected to be part of this prestigious exhibition. For the Lecson to be shown at the V&A alongside products from other iconic British brands such as Jaguar, Alexander McQueen and Concorde is a privilege.
“This exhibition represents the rich heritage and the finest craftsmanship of British manufacturing for which this country has become renowned and towards which we are very honoured to have contributed since we started out 40 years ago.”
The exhibition runs until the 12 August.