I'm indebted to Jonathan for bringing it to my attention; until it arrived I really had no idea quite how significant this book is. Designed by Herbert Spencer and Hansje Oorthuys, and published in 1969, it first sets out to describe the circumstances in which the early design consultancies were established, specifically focusing on the work of the first of these consultancies; the perfectly named Design Research Unit.
With skills crossing pretty much the full gamut of design: the obvious graphic type, product, interior, townscape and architectural; DRU set the standard high for all the others to follow.
Amongst their many high profile activities were significant contributions to the Festival of Britain (1951), interior design work for BP's headquarters in London and what was, in its time (1956-66), Britain's largest design programme for British Rail that included locomotive design, signage and livery, staff uniforms and a comprehensive corporate ID manual, collaborating with Kinneir Calvert and Associates who designed the corporate typeface: Rail Alphabet.
A strong point for DRU's reason-for-being was to "design for industry" coming from Britain's post-war need to get back its feet, and emphasises the vital role that design played.
It's fascinating stuff. DRU did some fantastic work; like this beautiful symbol for the Royal Garden Hotel (1965); and pioneered corporate identity sytems, inline with the growing complexity of national industries. The photography is incredibly evocative of a ground-breaking era of optimistic modernism and the principles that DRU introduced resonate with so many things we take for granted today.