The Awards Ceremony for the 2018 Sir Misha Black Awards was held on Thursday 22 November at the Royal College of Art, London, introduced by Mary V Mullin, Chairman of the Sir Misha Black Awards Committee.
 
Introduction

My job is to tell you a little about Sir Misha Black and the Awards and to introduce the speakers.

Award Ceremonies

Each and every Award Ceremony since the first, held in Buckingham Palace, in 1978, has had its own distinctive character. Tonight is no exception. We are indeed marking 40 years since Sir William Coldstream received the very first Sir Misha Black Medal.

In Babylonian mythology 40 was referred to as, the ‘sacred number’ of the deity of craft, intelligence and creation. The precious stone ruby is associated with 40th anniversaries. The Good Book says ‘that Wisdom is more valuable than Rubies’… and on reflection that is what we are celebrating tonight… wisdom. Wisdom and the generosity, skill, and care by which design educators have ensured that cumulative wisdom has been handed on from one generation of students to the next.

So, given that this is an occasion, marked by such an auspicious number… for the next forty minutes or so I hope you will not be tempted to have forty winks!
    
It is said that, in an ever-changing world, consistency can be a double-edged sword. It can imply stagnation or strength. But consistency can also be a foundation without which a concept, a committee or an Awards Programme would not stand up to the ravages of time and turbulence. Since 1978, when the heads of the Founding Bodies, those organisations to which Sir Misha gave so much, met to find a way to pay tribute to his seminal work, and their successors, the individuals who have formed the Committee of five representatives, there has indeed been consistency of purpose. That is to honour the memory of Sir Misha, by honouring those, who like him, have given distinguished services to design education.

Misha Black was appointed first Professor of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art in 1959 and as Sir Misha held the position here until his retirement in 1975.

Sir Misha, was in the vanguard of those who encouraged collaboration in design education, by introducing subjects such as engineering and management studies into the industrial design course at the RCA. He established links between the RCA and Imperial College. These contacts and courses have evolved over the years into new and cutting-edge programmes today.  
 
In 1963 Sir Misha was one of the first Vice Presidents elected to the newly formed, International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, which began a movement to bring together designers from all over the world to share ideas and learn from each other. He truly believed in the exchange of knowledge, across continents, borders, peoples and classes. It is serendipitous that the holder of the archives of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design – and indeed those of many other organisations to which Sir Misha contributed, is the University of Brighton Design Archives, of which, more later!

The Committee has always been cognisant of Misha Black’s pioneering work in the international arena and we have had the privilege of acknowledging the dedication and services of design educators in countries that, in his time, had either little knowledge of industrial and engineering design education and certainly only embryonic courses in these subjects. His image is on Medals which are now in the northern and southern hemispheres, in the United States, Chile, South Africa, India and in island nations as far apart as Japan and Ireland. As far as we are aware  the Medal struck in Misha Black’s name is the only international Award for design educators and the only award of any kind promoted jointly and collaboratively by the distinguished and venerable Royal and other design  and engineering bodies in this country. It has been likened to the Nobel Prize for Design Education.

40th Anniversary of the Awards

So now to this, the 40th  year. And to our first ever Commercial! Thomas Carlyle once said that ‘the true university is a collection of books’ but on another occasion tempered that by saying ‘a well written life is almost as rare as a well spent one’. Disraeli opined ‘that an author who speaks about their own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children’! So, mothers never give up talking about their offspring, and politicians, then as now, do not always agree. Conversely the Committee was in total agreement that the lives of those who gave distinguished services to design education should be collectively and permanently recognised and recorded. The book ‘Fitness for What Purpose?’ is the result and you, our guests this evening, are witnessing its launch. The title comes from a paper written by Sir Misha in August 1974 for Design Magazine and the paper is reprinted in full in the book. This and other essays by Sir Misha link contributions by  members of the College of Medallists and, most importantly we believe, contain words of wisdom from recipients of the Award for Innovation in Design Education on the future of design education… not only in this country, but internationally. I urge you to make known this treasury of views on the subject, its history, its progress and development and especially its look to the future. It is a fascinating global glimpse across cultures and continents.

We are extremely grateful to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh for his 40 years of support for the Sir Misha Black Awards and for his gracious Foreword to the book; to the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 for their financial support, to Sir Christopher Frayling for collating the Essays, to the almost 30 contributors or their estates, to Malcolm Garrett RDI, who designed the book, to Wilhelmina Bunn who coordinated the project and to Geoffrey Adams, who organised the presentation of the first Medal in 1978 and kindly spent long hours going through the book's historical details, and to all those who helped in any way.

The book will, we hope, join the, roughly, 15 million books held in the University of Cambridge Library, the University of Brighton Archives and every institution that runs a course on design.
 
As a small thank you, to you, our guests this evening, the book will be for sale at the reception following the presentation ceremony at one third off the list price, a mere £10 to you, for tonight only! When you have purchased your copy, you will have the singular opportunity, the once only chance, to have the contributing authors and the designer sign it! It is unlikely that you will ever again find them all in the same room or in any one bookstore! End of commercial!

Presentation of 2018 Medal

As we gather to honour Professor P. John Clarkson, of the University of Cambridge School of Engineering Design, we recall past recipients of the Medal – the photographs of these distinguished design educators grace the wall of this theatre. Collectively, they represent the highest achievement in design education in the 20th Century and  these early years of the 21st Century.
 
Previous Medallists
   
We are very glad to have with us members of the College of Medallists, Particular and special welcome to Professor Santiago Aránguiz Sánchez who received the 2013 Medal and who has travelled all the way from Santiago de Chile, some 11,000 miles, to be with us. To Professor Michael Twyman who received the 2014 Medal, Ms. Margaret Calvert who received the 2016 Medal, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling the 2003 Medallist and Professor Geoffrey Kirk, the 2004 Medallist.
 
Award for innovation in Design Education
 
The Award for Innovation in Design Education was inaugurated in 1999; this Award is made only when demanding criteria are met and is confined to individuals or institutions in the United Kingdom.

Previous Award  Recipients

We welcome previous Award Recipients: Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell, Dr. Paul Ewing, Professor Jane McCann, Professor Roger Coleman, Professor Stuart Bartholomew, Professor Penny Macbeth, Professor Lorraine Gamman, Professor Joe McCullagh, Professor Catherine McDermott.

The Award for Innovation this year goes to the University of Brighton Design Archives. Someone did say to me that using ‘innovative’ to describe an archive was an oxymoron, but… the vision that created an international design archive, to serve as an educational research centre, far from being a contradiction, is a repository to fuel innovative thinking.

I call on Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, representative of the College of Medallists on our Committee to read the Citation for the University of Brighton Design Archives, and on Professor Geoffrey Kirk, who represents the Royal Academy of Engineering on our Committee, to read the Citation for Professor P. John Clarkson, the recipient of the 2018 Sir Misha Black Medal.

Tonight we salute all those who have, and who are continuing to, dedicate their lives to educating the future generation of designers.
 
Reading again the Noble Laureate, Seamus Heaney’s thoughts on being a poet, I thought how apposite they are for design educators. He said the process “involves following a sixth sense and proceeding on the off chance. It involves testing the ground by throwing a shape and generally advancing by the roundabout path of intuition rather than the direct, and alas, often earnest path of logic… for as W. B. Yeats once said ‘For Wisdom is a Butterfly not a gloomy bird of prey’”
 
Design educators could be said to show their students how to capture the iridescence of those wings in flight and mould them into something tangible. As if in affirmation Heaney also said that creativity is about “impulse discovering direction, about potential discovering structure, about chance becoming intention” – surely this is what design educators encourage every day?

So on this day celebrated as Thanksgiving by Americans – a land where five Misha Black Medals have been awarded – we say thank you to all design educators. As it also the Feast of St. Cecilia, the patron of Music, I wish we could put that to music! Dedicated teachers give us all hope in knowing the education of the designers, those who will reshape our world, in ways as yet unimagined, is in safe hands. You will, we know, continue to share knowledge and wisdom and work for the common good,  as Sir Misha  and continuing generations of design educators have done. In  education, as indeed in all things creative, there are no boundaries and, certainly, no borders.  

Conclusion
 
This concludes the presentation for this evening. My thanks to everyone involved in organising this ceremony and to those who have taken part: to the Sir Misha Black Awards Committee for their dedication: to our administrator Simone Thompson and all who have helped us prepare for this evening; to the Founding Bodies for their support; to our Patrons, Rolls Royce and Ideo, the Arup Foundation and the Education Trust of the Design and Industries Association and this evening’s sponsors Belmond. Particular thanks to the Vice Chancellor and everyone at the Royal College of Art who have provided a home for our Awards and a special thank you to the technical team in the theatre this evening.

Before inviting you all to join Professor Clarkson and the University of Brighton team for a celebratory glass in the lobby area outside the theatre, I would like to thank the Bugatti Trust for their support. They are represented tonight by their Chairman, Mr Hugh Conway and his wife. Our very sincere thanks to the Bugatti Trust: you have enabled us to make our reception sparkle!
 
 
 
 

2018 Ceremony