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Milner Gray featured image
Milner Gray featured image

Milner Connorton Gray CBE (1899โ€“1997) was a pivotal figure in the development of British industrial design in the twentieth century, having contributed to the recognition of design as a profession, the establishment of British design consultancies, and the development of Design Management.


Gray was a fellow student and friend of artist-designer Graham Sutherland at Goldsmiths College School of Art, London University, where he studied painting and design. He served in the Royal Engineers during WWI when he was involved in camouflage work like other famous artists and designers from both wars. He joined the Society of Industrial Artists (SIA, see Chartered Society of Designers) as a founding member in 1930 to gain professional recognition for industrial designers. Multidisciplinary design firms had begun to appear in the United States by this time. In 1934, Gray founded the Bassett-Gray Group of Artists and Writers, which later became the Industrial Design Partnership (1935โ€“40), specialising in graphics and product design. Misha Black, a co-founder of the latter, teamed up with Gray and Herbert Read to form the Design Research Unit (DRU) in 1943, a consultancy that aimed to bring design expertise to postwar industry, commerce, and the government. Like Courage Breweries, ICI, and the British Aluminium Company, many notable firms and organisations used it to design their corporate identities.

Gray was hired at the Ministry of Information during WWII on the recommendation of Frank Pick, first as the head of the department’s newly formed exhibitions division, then as an adviser on exhibition design, a field of expertise he successfully applied in the Design at Home exhibition in 1945, Britain Can Make It exhibition in 1946, and the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Roles and Recognitions

Gray was also interested in design education, having taught at prestigious art institutions such as the Royal College of Art and the Sir John Cass School. He served as principal from 1937 to 1940. He also worked with the BBC on the series Looking at Things from 1949 to 1955. He spoke and wrote on various topics related to design, including Package Design (1955) and Lettering for Architects and Designers (1958). (1962). He also served as a vital counsellor to industry through the DRU. One of his most significant initiatives was the formulation of the British Railways corporate identity programme, which he headed in 1964.

In 1938, he was chosen Royal Designer for Industry. In 1955, he was named Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry. He earned the SIA’s first Gold Medal for excellent design achievement. In the 1963 Birthday Honours, he received the CBE.


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, November 25). Milner Gray (designer). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:22, September 19, 2021, from

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