Evening gown

From Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2009 collection.

Antelope

Industrial designer Ernest Race created this outdoor bench for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

God Save the Queen

Artist Jamie Reid played a pivotal role in establishing the punk visual aesthetic. Here, his iconic 1977 poster promoting the Sex Pistols.

Torsion Chair

By Brian Long (1971).

Aquatics Centre

Zaha Hadid’s jaw-dropping flying saucer of an aquatics center will host swimming and diving events at the London Olympics later this year.

Children Crossing Sign

In the 1950s and '60s, graphic designer Jock Kinneir and his assistant Margaret Calvert updated Britain’s motorways with an elegant, efficient signage system full of bold colors and simple shapes and symbols, including the 1964 children’s crossing sign at left. The system became a role model for modern road signs around the world.

Jaguar E-Type, 1961

Gorgeous.

Calyx

Furnishing fabric by celebrated textile designer Lucienne Day (1951).

Even To Spark Out Now Would Be No Pain

Britain loves its subversive art. Filmmaker John Maybury created this poster of the artist, model, and designer Trojan to promote the Anti-Art Fair in 1986. Trojan reportedly died of an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 21 shortly before the poster was issued.

The Family in Harlow Town Centre

By Henry Moore (1954).

Double-D Mini Dress

Brits might not’ve invented the miniskirt--that honor goes to our ancient civ ancestors--but they certainly popularized it. Here’s a 1966 mini dress by Foale & Tuffin.

Hare Jewel

Kit Williams’s 1979 children’s book Masquerade had clues to the location of this jeweled hare buried "somewhere in Britain," kicking off a mass treasure hunt.

Co.Design

12 Of Britain's Greatest Design Achievements From The Past 60 Years

British innovators have made it possible for the rest of us to fly fast and communicate even faster--all while dressed like bondage-fetishizing drag queens.

Everyone knows that hosting the Olympics is just an excuse to brag about your country to the rest of the world. Which helps explain the rather sprawling self-aggrandizement of a forthcoming exhibit at the London V&A: It’s a show dedicated to “the best of British design and creative talent” from 1948--the last time London got to promote itself before a captive global audience--to the summer of 2012.

“As people around the world will be focussing on the UK in the summer of 2012 this is an ideal moment to showcase British innovation, taste and creativity," says Martin Roth, director of the V&A.

Luckily, Britain has talent worth the hype: It spawned Jony Ive, the genius behind Apple’s revolutionary design language. It gave us the engineers of the Concorde and fashion-world juggernauts like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. In short, the U.K. made it possible for the rest of us to fly fast and communicate even faster--all while dressed like bondage-fetishizing drag queens.

British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age covers such a huge swath of British culture that it’s impossible to pin down a single reason for the nation’s creative fortunes. But one significant theme emerges, and that’s cutting-edge technology. Whether it was the bold engineering of the Mini, the structural bona fides of Norman Foster’s Swiss Re Tower or even the sadistic architecture of McQueen’s armadillo shoe, Britain has proudly embraced new technologies as a key to innovation.

British Design 1948-2012 opens March 31. Check out our preview above.

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