David Mellor, Royal Designer for Industry, was unusual in this country in combining the activities of hands-on craftsman and designer with those of design entrepreneur. He operated as designer, manufacturer and retailer, seeing the designer's function as controlling a product through all stages from concept to customer. He felt it his mission to improve design standards over a broad spectrum, directly affecting very many people's lives.
Born in Sheffield in 1930, David Mellor trained originally as a silversmith. His Sheffield background gave him a particular affinity with metalwork. This developed onwards from his early years of making one-off pieces of specially commissioned silver, including table silver for British embassies, to the present relatively large scale operation. David Mellor's well known ranges of stainless steel and silver cutlery are now manufactured in his own purpose-built factory in Derbyshire.
David Mellor's concern with design in its broadest sense led to many important government commissions in the 1960s. He redesigned the national traffic light system. Mellor's design is still in use. He developed a controversial new square post box, and designed minimalist stainless steel cutlery produced in huge quantities for government canteens and NHS hospitals. In 1969 David Mellor opened the first of his shops, in Sloane Square in London. The David Mellor shops were soon internationally recognised and helped to establish new attitudes to retailing, from the point of view both of display and merchandise.
David Mellor's approach to design was always to some extent that of a craftsman, in his close involvement in materials and techniques and his insistence on the highest standards of environment and working conditions. All David Mellor buildings have been of special architectural merit. His original studio-workshop in Sheffield was designed in the 1960s by Patric Guest of Mayorcas & Guest and is now a listed building. In the 1970s David Mellor embarked on the restoration of a historic building, Broom Hall, in central Sheffield. The successful integration of the cutlery workshops received an Architectural Heritage Year Award.
The Round Building, David Mellor's cutlery factory in the Peak District National Park, was completed in 1990. Mellor collaborated with the architect Sir Michael Hopkins in evolving a design which is highly functional in a rural area of outstanding natural beauty. The Round Building has won numerous architectural awards.
The David Mellor Design Museum at Hathersage, opened in 2006 in another building purpose designed by Michael Hopkins. The David Mellor Design Museum covers the whole broad spectrum of David Mellor's work from tea spoons to traffic lights over the past half century. David Mellor retired in 2005 and passed away in 2009. His son Corin Mellor, an interior and product designer, is now Creative Director of the company.