Managing the Design Legacy

Design Legacy

A panel discussion during London Design Festival took place about a hot topic for many heritage brands: How to manage the Design LegacyThe discussion was held between Paula Day (daughter of Robin and Lucienne Day), Paul Newman from Case Furniture and design historian Charlotte Fiell,

Robin Day
Two versions of 675 chair by Robin Day. From 1952 and 2014 by Case furniture

Paula Day, who is the only child of one of the most well known British Designers Robin and Lucien Day told about her responsibility of preservation her parents’ life work. She started a foundation in 2012 to do that. It is an educational charity, which promotes the public knowledge of her parents’ work. The jobs are unpaid, so they have full independency.

One important aspect in terms of legacy is the continuency of the work. Big decisions have to be made when re-producing original designs. A successful example of this is a new version of the 675 chair by Robin Day. The original design from 1952 had changed a lot during years. Often ‘corrections’ are made over time in changing the scales and manufacturing details, materials etc.

Robin Day

An import detail that was decided to leave intact, although more modern techniques exist, was the visible brass fixings of the chair handle. Hidden fixings would have changed the character of the original design too much. According to Paula Day the new chair by Case furniture manages to capture the vigour and poise of the original design.

Another important aspect that is often neglected according to historian Charlotte Fiell is to take good care of the design archives. Drawings should always be dated to ensure the copyrights. A good idea is to compose a history in internet in order to have control of the content.

What is often forgotten is the oral design history. This can be a great asset for the company. It is invaluable to get recordings from designers to tell stories of their designs. This is incredibly rich form of history that can be passed on if it is collected and preserved.

The obvious importance of IPR and copyrights was pointed out many times during the discussion. Paula Day emphasised the importance of endorsement policy. How to do licensing is one of the big questions for heritage brands. Guidelines have to be devised thoroughly. Eames is a good example of successful licensing. Ultimately all products must express the culture of the company and what they stand for.

When talking about the copy culture at the moment Charlotte Fiell pointed out that sometimes it is useful to design parts in the product that are difficult to copy. Paula Day mentioned that since copyright is only 25 years it is more important to trademark the name of the designer.

Finally, she talked about the value of design and the lack of understanding the effort that is put into the work. Design is about passion, and for her parents it was their life. When looking at their work you must remember “it’s someone’s life that gone into it.”



  1. Im interested to know how faithful a repro of the original Day designs the ‘modern’ Habitat versions were? I live in Los Angeles (where Eames furniture surrounds us, of course) but in my house I have my 675 dining chairs in walnut/black leather, my cream leather Day’s Forum sofa and armchairs as well as the Day sofa-bed…. designed in the late 50s but all from Habitat maybe 15 years ago.
    Wondering how collectible these items are considering Day is less known here in the US

    1. I have no idea, since I’m not an expert but the ‘new version’ on the 675 chair looks absolutely stunning and timeless. Very hard to say about collectability in the US.

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