Creative platform for the 21st century

Future Present

By Nick Skeens and Liz Farrelly

Back in September 1997 prime minister Tony Blair launched a campaign by the Design Council to mark the coming of the new millennium by identifying and celebrating 2000 of the UK’s most innovative creations from the last five years of the old millennium.

They were to be products that change the way people live in the 21st century, and improve quality of life, Blair said.

The Millennium Products initiative that followed may not have been an unqualified success: the number of products eventually judged worthy of the name fell short of the target; some of those that were chosen proved controversial; and some of the companies involved went bust.

That said, Future Present gives us another look at many of these highly creative ideas, and the work that went into both the original invention and final production.

Products range from Rolls-Royce’s Trent jet engine to Lara Croft, the pneumatically endowed heroine of Eidos’s Tomb Raider game.

The book tells the stories behind their creation, such as how former airline pilot Ivan Shaw turned his dream of a light aircraft that could be kept at home into reality, with the Europa XS, a self-build aircraft more economical than a motorbike.

Including excellent photography throughout, this is a rare example of engineering, innovation and design all wrapped up into a good-looking coffee table book.

Helen Beasley

204pp. BoothClibborn Editions Ltd; £38.00. ISBN 1 86154 146 5