When I began working at Conran Design Group in 1970 I hardly expected 40 years later to be attending a celebration for its founder’s 80th birthday. Last month Terence Conran invited a group of designer alumni for a private view of the Way We Live Now exhibition and a dinner at the Design Museum.

Back in the 1970s, getting a job at Conran was, arguably, as good as it got. There was a sense of being part of something that was happening around us, the extent of which we did not fully comprehend. Back then there were just a handful of influential design groups, and none better known, thanks to the high street presence of Habitat. Speaking at the dinner Terence Conran bemoaned the UK Government’s lack of support for design, its failure to understand how design could materially impact lives and drive economic growth. Despite his and others’ best efforts, this is sadly true. What is also true is the extent to which Conran has provided a context for how consumers and users of design view the world around us. The notion of something being ‘well designed’ has more meaning and matters more now than ever. We may argue about definitions and qualities, but the general recognition of design has been heightened by the example of this man.

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