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

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.SL