Ken Baynes ARCA … Our Friend and Colleague, died on 5 October, 2019

Ken Baynes was born at Eynsford in Kent on 10th April 1934. He studied stained glass at Bideford School of Art in Devon and the Royal College of Art in London, where, in 1959, he became editor of the college magazine, Ark. While editing Ark his professional interest moved to the media, particularly magazines and exhibitions. On leaving the RCA he became assistant editor of the international graphics journal, Graphis based in Zurich. When he returned to London in 1963 he established his own practice as a writer, editor and designer.

Although trained as an artist/craftsman, Ken spent his professional life working as a researcher, designer, educator, writer and advocate of design education. He was one of the pioneers of design research and design education having worked with Peter Green at Hornsey College of Art in the late 1960s and with Professor Bruce Archer at the Royal College of Art where Ken headed the Design Education Unit in the 1970s. He became a Visiting Professor in the Department of Design and Technology at Loughborough University (now Loughborough Design School) in 2001. At the centre of his work were two main themes: the use of exhibitions as a medium for education and entertainment and the attempt to develop better strategies for teaching art and design in primary and secondary schools.

He pioneered the use of exhibitions as a medium both for research and popularisation having worked with the Welsh Arts Council, the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum, Glasgow Museums, Edinburgh City Council and galleries in Sweden, Denmark and the United States. For the Welsh Arts Council he developed a series of ground breaking exhibitions intended to relate art to the life experiences of ‘ordinary’ people. Many toured in England and Scotland after opening in Wales. They included Snap! (with the National Portrait Gallery), the Art and Society Series, Scoop, Scandal and Strife (which toured in the Netherlands) and The Art of the Engineer (with Francis Pugh and the Science Museum).

He started working on exhibitions with his wife Krysia Brochocka for The Art of Lego, which was seen by 1.4 million people during its tour of the UK. Together, they specialized in exhibitions that appeal to children and family groups and which emphasize making and aesthetic awareness. The emergence of the approach taken by Brochocka Baynes began with The Art Machine (1990) for Glasgow’s cultural capital celebrations. The Art Machine then toured to the Barbican Centre and Copenhagen. The fundamental concept was to first surround the visitor with inspiring exhibits from artists, craftspeople and designers, then to reveal the processes used to create them and finally to invite participation in a series of creative and imaginative activities reflecting the same qualities as the exhibits. Design activity was the focus of Design Works (1994) shown in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Croydon, Manchester, Leicester and at the Galway Children’s Festival. Visitors engaged in design games at their own level using specially developed modelling media. Other exhibitions included How to be Bottom (Barbican, 1995), Animal Magic (Edinburgh 1997, then shown in York, Cardiff and Leicester), Weaving Stories (Edinburgh 2003, then shown in Gateshead, The Harley Gallery, Croydon, Paisley and Motherwell), Artworks (Edinburgh1998, then Croydon), Seeing Dragons in the Clouds (The Harley Gallery 2006, then shown in Gateshead, Edinburgh, Sleaford, Croydon, Wick, Wolverhampton and Stroud) and Quick on the Draw (2008) which explored the everyday uses of drawing through a series of case studies, and a studio of activities for all ages. This exhibition was shown in Edinburgh, The Harley Gallery and Croydon, and ended its tour at Loughborough University. Brochocka Baynes’ last exhibition was Cloud Nylon (The Harley Gallery, 2011, then Ruthin, Shipley, Rochdale, Stroud, Bilsden, Worcestershire and Walford Mills).

Turning to Ken’s work as an advocate for design and design education, he was a broadcaster, advisor, author, editor, campaigner and researcher. He was the scriptwriter and presenter for the Design Matters television series produced by Malachite for Channel 4 where he was involved in creating 22 programmes dealing with every aspect of design. He contributed regularly to Design magazine, the Times Literary Supplement and Architectural Review. He was the co-founder of the Design Dimension Educational Trust and Editor of Cook School, a magazine for teachers published by the Focus on Food Campaign. He was on the Advisory Board of design education bodies in Illinois and New York. With Krysia he was joint editor of the Nelson Design and Technology resource and a member of the education committee of the Design Museum. He wrote reports and conducted research for the King’s Fund and with Krysia for the Ove Arup Foundation, The Design Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Crafts Council and Loughborough University. He campaigned for ‘practical’ education in a number of related fields including food and cooking, drawing and gardening.

His earlier books included Industrial Design and the Community (1968), Attitudes in Design Education (1968), Art in Society (1975, which was translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Turkish and also published in the United States), About Design (1976), The Art of the Engineer (1981, with Francis Pugh) and Gordon Russell (1987).

I got to know Ken Baynes following his appointment as a Visiting Professor at Loughborough University. Together with Professor Phil Roberts who had been appointed as Head of the Department of Design and Technology he established the influential Orange Series of publications concerning design education research. In 1992 he co-authored The Nature of Research into Design and Technology Education and Modelling: The Language of Designing with Phil Roberts and Bruce Archer. One focus of Ken’s research in the 1990s was developing greater understanding of the behaviour of very young, pre-school children when designing and he published three Orange Series publications associated with this work: Children Designing (1992), Designerly Play (1994) and How Children Choose: Children’s encounters with design (1996).

Of course I read all these publications with great interest, but I first worked with Ken as co-editors with Georgina Royle of New Designer magazine in 1996-97; a magazine written for secondary school students. Ken’s continuing research interest focused on modelling and the insights offered to the arts and design by new developments in cognitive science and digital media. I worked closely with Ken on the preparations for his modelling seminar series (2009-2010): Modelling and Intelligence; Modelling and Design; Modelling and the Industrial Revolution and Modelling and Society which were also published in the Orange Series. These culminated in Ken’s seminal book Design, Models of Change: The impact of designerly thinking on people’s lives and the environment, which was published in 2013.

In 2012, Ken and I established Loughborough Design Press (LDP) partly because of the difficulties we had in finding a publisher for Ken’s book, but also because we felt there was a need for an additional publication route for design education researchers. Our motivation could perhaps be best expressed by the quotation that Ken chose for his page on LDP’s website:

“The biggest challenge facing us is to create a sustainable future. Designerly thinking will play a key role. We’d better be good at it. The survival of homo sapiens is at stake.” ( Ken Baynes)

I had the great pleasure of editing two further books with Ken. Design Education: a vision for the future (2013) which was based on the John Eggleston Memorial Lecture Ken gave in 2010 at the Design and Technology Association’s Annual Conference and Design Epistemology and Curriculum Planning (2017) in which Ken showed the breadth of his thinking through contributing a chapter entitled ‘Design epistemology: a wider perspective’ and, memorably, a chapter of cartoons exploring the making of meaning without words. Throughout the establishment of LDP from selecting fonts to book editing and design, Ken’s extraordinary knowledge of the design field, education and publishing within it was apparent. Ken certainly did everything he could to provide the opportunities for humans to develop and understand designerly thinking. In one of our last conversations he said that he thought ”he might have gone on too long”, but I think we would all have liked him to go on for much longer. He was an important and influential thinker in the world of design education. He was a great communicator and his work challenged and inspired many people in the UK and beyond. His passing is a great loss to us all.

Eddie Norman

Emeritus Professor of Design Education, Loughborough University

Also published in Design and Technology Education: an international journal

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