03 August 2009

On Bruce Archer's design research legacy

Harry Brignull celebrates Bruce Archer's contribution to design practice, in particular his research-based innovation methods.

I hadn't realised his work on hospital equipment design at the RCA had been such a struggle. Initial funding from the Nuffield Trust, resulted in research-based recommendations for providing receptacles for soiled dressings, finding ways of improving the accuracy of dispensing medication, preventing smoke doors from being locked open and improving hospital beds. Nuffield's response?

‘They hated it [Archer's research report]. They’d expected beautifully presented designs for funny looking cutlery for hospital patients to use in bed. That was what art schools did.’

Nuffield withdrew their funding and, for a while, Archer self-supported his work at the RCA, taking a night job at an ice-cream factory. Eventually all Archer's recommendations were funded and implemented, most famously the King's Fund hospital bed which became a British Standard.

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