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Our History

Design-Nation was founded by the late Peta Levi MBE*, an imaginative and indomitable champion of British design, who also founded ‘New Designers’, London’s annual exhibition showcase of art and design graduate talent.

In its early days Design-Nation was set up as ‘New Designers in Business’, to offer manufacturing, marketing and publicity expertise to new designers. NDIB then became Design-Nation and the operating arm of Levi’s umbrella charity ‘The Design Trust’.

Since Levi’s death in 2008, Design-Nation has been linked to London Metropolitan University, which it merged with in 2006, and in 2011 ownership of Design-Nation passed to Member Ambassador, Andrew Tanner. In 2014, the organisation found a permanent home at The National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire and in 2017, Design-Nation merged with Design Factory to create the UK’s leading design and craft portfolio and network. Design-Nation is currently part of the cultural portfolio of North Kesteven District Council (a Lincolnshire-based authority with an established commitment to arts and culture) and is a national portfolio organisation of Arts Council England. Design-Nation continues to work with committed industry-wide Brand Ambassadors and is driven by a Steering Group of dedicated friends.

Today, Design-Nation and The Design Trust are separate entities however, both continue to work collaboratively to support designer-makers to develop and grow a successful creative business practice.

Levi’s ambition was to provide a unified platform to showcase new talent and create a resource to collaborate, consult, commission, trade, buy, collect, source, research and innovate; and this ambition continues today. Our online portfolio comprises a rich and diverse pool of highly skilled designer-makers whose collective works demonstrate authentic, exceptional craftsmanship and design ability. This portfolio is a trusted resource and one-stop destination for anyone with a keen interest in design and craft, as well as those wishing to commission or learn more about this ever-changing sector, including: designers, collaborators, architects, students, retailers, manufacturers, journalists, collectors, commissioners and consumers.

Over the years Design-Nation has helped thousands of designers to launch new products and develop and grow through pioneering progammes and opportunities. During the ‘90s, our organisation curated six ‘Decorative Arts Today’ selling exhibitions of modern design for Bonhams, including leading designers Ron Arad, Danny Lane and Tom Dixon. ‘Young Designer of the Year’ was launched at Decorex and curated member exhibitions were showcased at Collect and 100% Design. However, Design-Nation’s most prominent and influential project was undoubtedly ‘Eureka’; a ground-breaking five-year project that connected Design-Nation members with manufacturers and retailers in tailor-made partnerships, to develop products and commissions which pushed innovation and forward thinking for British-based design and product. Over the five years, 28 members were commissioned to design 40 products as part of an annual Eureka Collection which was launched at London Design Festival. Partners included: Designers Guild, Crabtree & Evelyn, Fired Earth Interiors, The Conran Shop, Heals, John Lewis, Wentworth, SCP, Wesley Barrell and Royal Doulton.

More recently, the organisation has championed members at major festivals and platforms, including London Craft Week and London Design Festival. Our partnership with Decorex and New Designers has flourished with an annual curated exhibition taking place at Decorex each year, and the ‘One Year In Award’, which we judge and present with The Design Trust.

Design-Nation (incorporating Design Factory) has also continued to support designer-makers with their creative and business practice through international research missions and exhibition opportunities in Japan, New York, France and Germany; mentoring programmes; retail pop-up showcases; industry events; and study days.

In 2020/21, Design-Nation celebrates its 20th anniversary securing major support from Arts Council England. We will deliver a new UK-wide programme of talent development initiatives and partnership projects, driving forward a new era of support which develops excellence and innovation in contemporary craft, design and product.

*For more information about Peta Levi MBE,  there are excellent and fitting online tributes to her by leading design experts and writers Barbara Chandler and Charlotte Abrahams, as well as an obituary by her local newspaper Camden New Journal.

Peta Levi MBE

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