Robin Day, furniture designer. Born: 25 May, 1915, in High Wycombe. Died: 9 November 2010, in Sussex, aged 95.
Robin Day's influence on post-war furniture design was immense. His grey or tangerine polypropylene chairs are in neatly every school and venue in the country. They are easy to store, can be assembled quickly and were adequately comfortable.
He and his wife Lucienne wanted to design practical and accessible furniture. "Design was more than just a profession," he said in the 1950s. "We were dedicated, competitive and filled with evangelical zeal." London's Design Museum praises Day's contribution to UK furniture design: "Robin Day transformed British design after World War II by pioneering a new modern idiom. He experimented with new materials in inexpensive materials."
He created more than 150 designs for domestic and office furniture and public seating, and was labelled the "grandmaster of furniture design". His one-piece stacking chair was chosen as one of eight designs in a 2009 exhibition highlighting British design classics.
The son of a Buckinghamshire policeman, Day won a scholarship in the early 1930s to the Royal College of Art in London. There he was influenced by the new design concepts coming from the US and the continent. At college he met Lucienne Conradi, a textiles student. They married in 1942 and enjoyed a happy marriage and professional partnership. During the war they taught at the Beckenham School of Art and shared a studio in Chelsea working on back-to-back drawing boards.
In 1948 Day won first prize for his design for storage furniture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the following year he was appointed consultant designer to S Hille & Co, a small London furniture company, where he worked for 20 years.
He rose to prominence at the 1951 Festival of Britain. The futuristic style - the Royal Festival Hall's (RFH) design was controversial and the Skylon became an iconic design feature - suited Day's concepts. Hille plywood chairs were everywhere and Day's innovative steel and plywood chairs were in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion. His work can still be seen in the RFH; he created the original furniture and the auditorium seating. He was also involved in various aspects of the RFH's recent makeover.
The Festival of Britain did much to reinvigorate British design and Day was in the vanguard of change; he wanted to get away from the heavy brown furniture so prevalent in pre-war Britain. He concentrated on slim, elegant and more sleek chairs such as the 1952 Reclining Chair, which was more suitable to the smaller houses being built. His design for Pye radio and television sets won the 1957 Industrial Design Award. He also started to manufacture the 1953 Q Stak chair.They may have stemmed from the enforced austerity of the era but his simple design made them very useable.
It was in 1963 Day designed the chair that made him famous. Initially he had envisagedit being made out of glass-reinforced plastic. Instead he decided upon polypropylene, which was cheap and sturdy. His design could be mounted on a standard stacking frame or fixed to a pedestal base. This made it multi-useable for theatres, assembly halls or sports stadiums. His initial 6,000 investment proved a huge success and he soon received commissions from important theatres and schools. It was acclaimed as the "best selling chair of all time".
In the 1960s he designed for many international companies - notably BOAC (now BA) - and he designed some of the interior of the Boeing 707. That was followed by prestigious commissions from the new Churchill College, Cambridge and for a revamp of the John Lewis stores.
There have been exhibitions of his work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Barbican Centre and the Manchester City Art Galleries. He won numerous awards.
Day guarded his privacy, refusing to get involved in controversy over modern architecture or design. He was also a keen mountaineer and skier all his life, and climbed Mount Kenya at the age of 76.
His innovative mind and clear vision about all his designs made him special and, invariably, startlingly individual. As he said: "A good design must fulfil its purpose well, be soundly constructed, and should express in its design this purpose and construction."
Lucienne died earlier this year. Their daughter, Paula, survives him.