Introduction to the Sir Misha Black Awards
The Sir Misha Black Awards are unique in honouring the exceptional role of individuals and institutions within design education.

Established by the Design & Industries Association (DIA), the Royal College of Art (RCA), the RSA Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry (RDI), the Royal Academy of Engineering and the College of Medallists, the awards commemorate the life of architect, designer, and professor Sir Misha Black, whose pioneering work played a crucial role in the development of design in Britain.

There are two awards, The Sir Misha Black Medal which recognises distinguished contributions to design edcuation made by individuals from anywhere in the world, and The Sir Misha Black Award which was introduced to recognise innovation of all kinds in design education in the UK.

Celebrating 40 years
In 2018 the Awards celebrated their 40th Anniversary. To mark the occasion a book, edited by Christopher Frayling (College of Medallists) and Mary V Mullin (Chairman of the Awards Committee) was published. ‘Fitness For What Purpose? – Essays on design education celebrating 40 years of the Sir Misha Black Awards’ was officially launched at the annual Awards Ceremony held at the RCA on Thursday 22 November. Published by Design Manchester / Eyewear Publishing it is available to purchase here.


Misha Black
Misha Black (1910-1977) was born in Azerbaijan and came to England at the age of two where he was raised and educated. Despite receiving little formal art education, Black began designing posters at the age of 17 and in 1934 joined the Bassett-Gray design consultancy, later named the Industrial Design Partnership. During this period, he contributed to designs for a number of exhibitions including the interior for the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
In 1943, alongside fellow designer Milner Gray, Black founded Design Research Unit (DRU), one of the first international, interdisciplinary design practices with major clients in industrial design, architecture and graphics. Under Black’s leadership, DRU played an important role in post-war British design, contributing heavily to The Festival of Britain (1951) before going on to handle a number of other high profile projects, a well-known example being Misha Black’s iconic 1968 design for Westminster’s street name signs.
Having worked as an architect and designer for over 30 years, in 1959 London’s prestigious Royal College of Art appointed Misha Black as its first Professor of Industrial Design, a post he held until his retirement in 1975. With his wealth of knowledge and expertise, Black was arguably the most influential design teacher of his generation, a gifted speaker and writer on design whose international standing was an inspiration to students at the college.
Along with his role at the RCA, Misha Black also played an active part in UNESCO as well as helping to found the International Council for the Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) in 1959. Black became a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, winning the Society’s highest award The Minerva Medal, and in 1972 was knighted for his contribution to design and industry in Britain. To add to this long list of achievements, towards the end of his career Black was appointed President of the Design & Industries Association (DIA), a position he held from 1974 to 1976.


The Sir Misha Black Medal
Set up to commemorate the legacy of Sir Misha Black, the Sir Misha Black Medal is awarded to individuals across the globe who have made a significant contribution to design education. The only international award of its kind, The Sir Misha Black Medal is awarded collaboratively by Britain’s leading design organisations with previous recipients including Max Bill (1982), Ettore Sottsass (1999), and Santiago Calatrava (2002).
All recipients of the Sir Misha Black Medal are automatically enrolled in the College of Medallists, a position they hold for life.
First awarded in 1978, the Medal began life as a biennial event but has since become an annual date within the design world calendar.


The Sir Misha Black Award
In 1999, the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education was created to honour the exceptional work of a teacher, team, department, or course within or between educational establishments in the UK.
The impetus behind the award was to acknowledge the collective excellence and leadership in design education within the United Kingdom that has long been held in high regard internationally, but until recently had received little formal recognition. In paying tribute to innovation in the developing culture of design education it is hoped that the award will not only honour design educators, but will also focus upon the crucial importance of their work in the industrial, commercial and cultural life of the country.

Sir Misha Black

Architect and designer

1910 - 1977

About Sir Misha Black and the Awards