When my dad suggested a family day trip to the ‘Designs on Britain’ exhibition at the Jewish Museum, I was happy to oblige. I had been meaning to visit the museum for a while now, so what better excuse to go than for a very cultural family day out. The exhibition is made up of iconic British design that was produced by Jewish immigrants to Great Britain, and includes classic designs across toys, posters, publications, everyday products and more. Jewish culture has always been important to me, from the food (I make a mean chicken soup), history, even the Yiddish I manage to squeeze into my every day conversation! I will always be interested in the background of my heritage, and combining this with my passion for all things design, I knew the exhibition would be of firm interest.
Situated down a peaceful street in Camden, the Jewish Museum was a lot smaller and more intimate than I had imagined. The first two floors are home to permanent exhibitions on the history of British Jewish history, and a gallery on the Holocaust, told through the story of an Auschwitz survivor. After visiting Anne Frank’s House as well as Auschwitz itself, I never tire of reading about the harrowing events of the Holocaust, and the gallery here was filled with family possessions of Leon Greenman, who unbelievably survived six concentration camps.
Climbing to the top of the museum, we eventually reached the chirpier ‘Designs on Britain’ exhibition. As a whole I was really impressed with the variation in the work shown. I especially enjoyed the posters and print work that was being displayed and the Penguin Crime series really stood out to me; dating back to the 60s and 70s I absolutely loved the use of stylised imagery and type. It’s from this you could really witness the beginning of the iconic Penguin style. The collection of vintage posters on show were created for standard work place purposes such as health warnings, leaving the office safely and adverts for the post office. but all were beautifully designed and I would definitely hang any of them on my walls at home!
There were also many every day items on display such as the London street signs and the fabric used for seats on the Tube were painstakingly designed by Jewish immigrants. We take objects like these for granted, and it just shows how they were not only successfully designed for purpose, but are also aesthetically timeless. A classic 1970s Chopper bike was also on show, and we were told that the designer himself had been in to visit earlier that morning. We were disappointed we had missed him – I’m sure my dad would have had many questions for the guy!
I really enjoyed the exhibition, and learnt a lot about the history of these objects and the designers behind them. It closes mid April so make sure you pay it a visit asap! Find out more at http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/