David Worthington is a professional design consultant. David spoke to Choices about curating the Design Gallery at the London Transport Museum and working between design and cultural heritage.
Design at the London Transport Museum
"One of the really exciting things that's been happening over the last decade is the connection between design and cultural heritage, in the sense that museums realise that they're no longer just there for the preservation of artifacts, they're there much more to educate people and to give them a great day out.
"The Design Gallery at the London Transport Museum is one of the projects I've been working on. It's without a doubt one of the most exciting things to do, connecting back and understanding the history of design at London Transport, which is probably the most significant example of corporate identity that this country has ever produced."
Curating the Design Gallery
"Something which has never changed in design is the notion of an enquiring mind. I'm looking for people who think differently or consider the world that's surrounding them."
"The museum asked me to curate the gallery, to look through many tens of thousands of things that they had and select the things that I felt told the story in the best possible way.
Of course, it doesn't quite end there because as soon as you start getting the objects out of the cupboard, you start to think about the interrelationship between those objects, what they would look like if they went together, how they should be placed, and the kind of stories that we wanted to tell around them. Putting this gallery together took about two years' work."
Museums and designers
"Museums work with designers all the time and there's a very strong interplay between the curators of the museum and the important work that they need to do in the preservation of objects and history, and the designers who are there to make sure that they're displayed in such a way that they appeal to a huge cross-section of the public. That's really very important.
"Design in a museum context is quite a complicated subject, because it's not just about posters and logos and fairly obvious things, it's about the experience.
"The design of a space like this involves lots of different types of designers.
- There was myself curating it, and art directing what went where.
- Interior designers and exhibition designers designed the casing and the things that come out to make it more interesting to look at.
- Graphic designers worked on the language and the lettering and the story that copywriters created.
- Display designers organised the way in which objects are held.
- Film designers, for the seven projectors running through this whole space, so objects which are innately inanimate start to come to life. That's quite a complicated thing to do, so the guys that designed the film came from a very different background than myself with a basic graphic design training."
Working in design
"In today's world, design is a much broader subject than it used to be. Traditionally it was people who could draw. Today it's much wider - there are people who manage the process of design and people who interface between the client and designer. So there are lots of opportunities to go into design even if you aren't someone who can draw very well, but just find the subject of design interesting.
"Design in a museum context is a complicated subject. It's not just about posters and logos and fairly obvious things, it's about the experience."
"But it can be difficult to find work, it's a pretty competitive field now. When I went into it, it was a lot easier. So you have to work hard. The notion that you can just drift into it as someone who has latent talent is a misnomer.
"Going to university and attaining a degree in design is very important, as commercial employers will be looking for that. It's a professional subject which requires professional qualifications.
But something which has never changed is the notion of an enquiring mind. When I interview people, I'm looking for people who think differently or consider the world that's surrounding them, because the relationship between design and society and commerce is really where the subject has its real purpose."
David Worthington is a member of D&AD and a fellow of the CSD and RSA. He established his own business, Worthington & Co, which he later sold to the Conran Design Group, where he was MD for ten years. He is consultant curator to the London Transport Museum and is chair of Creative and Cultural Skills.