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Designing Britain 1945 - 1975 > Exhibiting Britain > Britain Can Make It > BCMI Conclusion
 
BCMI CONCLUSION
 
What impact did BCMI have? Viewed from today, the first steps it made to promote a sense of ‘design consciousness’ in Britain’s manufacturers and consumers may be judged successful. Design is an integral part of the retail philosophy of stores such as Habitat and IKEA, whilst high street chains like Marks and Spencer and Debenhams have employed star designers for specific product ranges. Similarly, in the wake of the exhibition, the industrial designer did emerge as a significant figure in British design culture. There is a range of degree courses in product, industrial, furniture, fashion and interior design – in sharp contrast to the era when designers such as Black and Havinden practised – and a host of well-known designers.

In the shorter term, BCMI had, perhaps, a less discernable impact but one which, combined with other forces, would culminate in the design-sympathetic climate of today. Certainly, the economic context in the UK meant that it was not in a position in 1946 to underpin a demand for design – rationing would continue until 1952 – and it was only in the late 1950s that a real consumer market with a high degree of disposable income could afford to pay for the kind of goods displayed at BCMI. Nevertheless, there is evidence to show that some of the visitors to BCMI, at least, were more design conscious as a result of their visit and thus in a position, once goods became available, to be more discerning in their taste.

M-O’s report commented:
 
Those hundreds of thousands of people who went to "BCMI" have received guidance for their future buying from the goods on show…
Mass-Observation, Report on BCMI, 1946
 
and included the following comment from a woman visitor:
 
The Exhibition has made up our minds for us, because we now know exactly what we want when the things become available, whereas before, we know what we wanted in a vague sort of way…
Mass-Observation, Report on BCMI, 1946, p.4
 
The report also documented what it called the visitors’ ‘changes of taste’, noting that ‘Half felt that their taste had not been altered, one third say that they definitely have’ (p.4).
 
M-O observed:
 
…it is not so much that old tastes have been changed but that new ideas have been planted. Thus, the builder’s wife says: "It has given us a lot of new ideas on things we want", and a nurse remarks: "what I want now is different from what I wanted when I came into the Exhibition because there are things that I have never seen before".
Mass-Observation, Report on BCMI, 1946, p.5
 
If these comments signalled that the COID had, at the very least, planted some important seeds of design consciousness in visitors’ minds, the M-O discovered that the Council had been less successful at promoting itself:
 
... two in three [visitors] said that they did not know who had arranged the Exhibition. Of those who said that they did know, only two in seven were correct.
Mass-Observation, Report on BCMI, 1946, p.3
 
Britain Can Make It helped inaugurate a move towards a more sophisticated design culture in Britain. This had an impact on both consumers and practitioners and, by the late 1960s, had culminated in a real flowering of design which was, once again, ready to be shown on the world stage.
 
See the next section - Expo '67.

See BCMI Sources.
 
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