Birmingham; the Original Design City
Midlands makers have been global leaders in innovative, iconic product design for hundreds of years. 300 years since Abraham Darby first smelted iron ore with coke launching the industrial revolution, the regions manufacturers have been combining creative
and productive skills to sell prestigious branded products at home and abroad, signalling to consumers their ethos of care and quality as well as their intention to transform lifestyles for the better.
“The Birmingham Made Me Design Expo provides a ‘collectivist’ agenda with a large vision which many can buy into. There is an important need for Birmingham to be promoted as a great city and hinterland with a big opportunity for Birmingham to be seen as ‘playing’ Milan.”
William McGrath, Chief Executive,
AGA Rangemaster Group plc
Birmingham can follow Milan and find a way to showcase itself drawing on its great
cultural dividend. The Midlands has always been a hotbed for design, innovation and
forward thinking and the businesses based here are proud to be part of that tradition.
Abraham Darby, as far back as 1707, was granted his patent for the production of cast iron pots in Coalbrookdale, where he first smelted iron ore with coke launching the industrial revolution and changing people’s lives at home forever. Meetings at Soho House in Handsworth in the 1750s brought together Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, where they discussed and created new scientific, cultural, philosophical and aesthetic developments.
Around a hundred years on, artists, designers and philosophers, such as Birmingham born Edward Burne-Jones, a graduate of the Birmingham School of Art, was collaborating with William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, Charles Faulkner, Marshal and Webb, to transform lifestyles for people around the world through Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, the crafts-based furnishings and decorative arts manufacturer and retailer, famous worldwide for its medieval inspired aesthetic and styling, together with its strong links to Birmingham.
By fuelling an appetite for ‘beautiful and practical objects’ and ‘selling what all the world desires’ these groups at different times revolutionised aspirations, tastes and preferences among growing middle classes, initiating new approaches to lifestyles, how people lives at homethrough new interior décor, products and accessories.
This spirit can bee seen today in the thriving automotive sector, the vibrant jewellery trade (Birmingham is responsible for 60% of UK jewellery output) and quality ceramics, being revitalised by brands such as Dudson, Emma Bridgewater, Steelite and Portmerion.
This, in addition, to the powerful food and drink industry, home to Cadburys, Bass, Mitchell and Butlers, Bulmers, Marmite and Worcester Sauce. Heritage enables companies to possess an identifiable culture with an historical narrative recognised by users for its sincerity, whilst providing the foundations for a reputation built on innovation and sector leadership.