The Design Research Unit (DRU) first British Design Consultancy

Design Research Unit
Design Research Unit

The Design Research Unit (DRU) was one of the first design consultancies to provide various specialist design services to companies and individuals alike. In 1943, Herbert Read was established in Knightsbridge offices, London following negotiations with Marcus Bramwell, managing director of Stuart’s Advertising Agency. Following the 2nd World War, it emerged as an increasingly important design consultancy that connected design to industry and obtained several prestigious commissions for designers.

Misha Black and Milner Gray, who were active in the 1935 Industrial Design Collaboration themselves as a reform of a former groundbreaking consultancy, the Bassett‐Gray Artists and Writers Party, were two earliest DRU members. The architects Norbert Dutton, Frederick Gibberd, Sadie Speight and structural technician Felix Samuely, were other associates.

Influenced British Design Festivals

The DRU made significant contributions to the BCMI (1946) and the British Festival of 1951 and continued to accommodate various professional commissions, such as engineering and product design, interior design and company identity. At BCMI, DRU designed the Quiz Machines that sought to gauge popular taste and the highly didactic ‘What Industrial Design Means’ show (by Black, Bronek Katz, and R. Vaughan).

Key Commissions

Key DRU commissions included the 1954 Electricity Board Showrooms, by Black, Gibson, and H. Diamond, the BOAC engineering hall at London Airport (Heathrow) by Black, Kenneth Bayes, and BOAC staff from 1951 to 1955, and several interiors for the P&O Orient Line’s new liner Oriana by Black and Bayes in 1959. The sleek D2000 locomotive by Black and Beresfordi Evans was used by the DRU’s other firms, such as Ilford, Courage, Dunlop, London Transport and British Railways.


Design Research Unit – Wikipedia.

Woodham, J. Design Research Unit. In A Dictionary of Modern Design. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 Feb. 2021, from

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