Wednesday, 29 May 2019

A.H.Woodfull

I have recently been cataloguing a collection of archival material which was given to us by the son of the late industrial designer and pioneer in the use of plastics materials in product design A.H (Woody) Woodfull.

The papers, which include a series of lecture notes, photographs, scrap books, and design drawings, are an insightful peek into the past. Born in 1912, at a time when materials such as Bakelite (phenol formaldehyde), the first wholly man-made plastic, had only been around for five years, Woodfull trained as a silversmith and studied product design. He was appointed as product designer to British Industrial Plastics (BIP) in 1934 and was appointed head of BIP’s newly formed Product Design Unit in 1951 until his retirement in 1970. Whilst there, the unit's Design Advisory Service provided design consultancy to companies developing products in plastics, with the aim of improving the public's perception of the quality of plastic products and increasing demand for BIP's materials. 



Image credit: MoDiP

Image credit: MoDiP

Image credit: MoDiP

Reading through and transcribing his lecture notes, which span a period of 20 years from 1948 to 1968, it is clear that Woodfull was a passionate advocate for the emerging role of the product designer within industry, and that the use of the right plastics materials for the right job was of the utmost importance. Indeed, he was quite vociferous in his condemnation of the use of poorly chosen materials to achieve a cheap, quick fix, product that wasn’t up to the job, resulting in the bad reputation of plastics. 


Image credit: MoDiP

It is hard to imagine a time when the use of plastics in product design was a relatively new phenomenon, but reading Woodfull’s words has been very enlightening. A leading exponent in designing for the material, Woodfull’s designs demonstrate an understanding of and a sympathy for the capabilities of the materials he was using. We have examples of his work in the MoDiP collections and with the receipt of this archival material, we now have an insight into the processes employed in their creation and production. 


Image credit: MoDiP

Image credit: MoDiP

Image credit: MoDiP

If you are interested in reading Woody’s words, and reading through the archival material, please contact a member of the MoDiP team.

Pam Langdown, (Documentation Officer)


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