The 97 files in this series document many of the designers that took part in the KDW Designer Development Programme over the period from circa 1978 to 1987. The documentation includes some examples of their projects and designs. The documentation is in the form of slides, negatives and photographic prints. The items depicted in this collection include examples of ceramics, silver jewellery, silver hollowware, textile designs, graphic design, product design, furniture, and fashion designs. The majority of files in this series include studio photographs and head-shots of the individual designers who participated in the Butler House Project/Designer Development Programme or won the Young Designer Awards/Designer Development Awards.
Designer Development is a title that was adopted in the late 1970s and early 1980s to already established initiatives in KDW. Efforts to provide scholarships to young design graduates were mentioned in the first KDW annual report for 1965-66, in which W.H. Walsh describes how 'scholarships to KDW have the great merit of forging a link between academic training in design and employment in industry. A permanent up-grading of the country's design performance must depend on our own native talent'. Each summer from 1965 to 1968, two students from the National College of Art (NCA) were given scholarships to work in the KDW, with support from the Irish Institute in New York. KDW wanted to develop and expand on these scholarships, and in 1973 new premises were acquired adjoining the workshops to accommodate more designers. These Georgian premises were known locally as 'Butler House' and soon this initiative became known as the Butler House Project. The aim of the project was to employ more designers to work in the KDW for up to one year on post-graduate industrial assignments, all the while still 'supplementing and enlarging the existing arrangement with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) whereby design students are given short-term employment, usually during the summer vacation period'. Butler House was also intended to accommodate designers on exchange schemes from other countries, and to provide more working and conference facilities for KDW. It took almost four years to adequately restore Butler House due to financial constraints, however in the autumn of 1977 the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, Mr. Desmond O' Malley T.D., officially opened the Butler House Project, described as 'a new centre for designer training and development'. The project was assisted by an annual grant from the European Social Fund, and once in operation the house could potentially accommodate a maximum of 35 designers.
The Butler House project came into full operation in 1978 with ten trainees participating in the scheme that year, some of whom, such as Michael Byrne who worked in ceramics, Gena Duffy a jewellery designer, Alex Meldrum a textile designer and Lorraine Egan who designed handkerchiefs for a Japanese company called Iwamoto, are depicted within this series. Each trainee spent on average six months at the KDW 'working under the guidance of senior KDW personnel on assignments set by commercial firms'. The annual report from 1978 states that these close contacts with industry 'resulted in subsequent offers of employment' for many designers. The number of designers who participated annually in the Butler House Project rose steadily each year. Some designers from the 1979 team are depicted in this series: Judith Lockhart who worked in delicate porcelain to create organic shaped bowls; Gillian Cowan who created woven textile items for home furnishings; and Sharon Byers who worked in printed textiles. The Butler House Project was later referred to as the Designer Development Programme.
The Young Designer Awards were held annually and were originally established and administered by Coras Trachtala, however in 1979 they were renamed the Designer Development Awards and the administration was transferred to the KDW. In the transition period both titles are often used on documentation, records and published materials, but are essentially referring to the same award scheme. The awards presented bursaries to students or young designers who submitted design proposals for specific briefs set each year, that were in turn adjudicated by a panel. Initially the winners chose to use their bursaries for training or to gain work experience in Ireland or abroad. Later the awards were broken down into travel awards or study awards. A number of winners of the Young Designer Awards in 1979 are featured in this series. Cathy MacAleavey from Cabintealy, Co. Dublin submitted a design for a woven bedspread as part of a range of hotel bedroom furnishings, and won a study award worth £1,850 for the academic year 1979/80, with the option of £925 continuity awards for a further two years study. Press release information that features on the reverse of some photographs within the series, suggests that Cathy intended to begin a one year course in weaving at the Wetterhoff School, Hameenlinna in Finland with her winnings. Other winners from that year include; Brian Leech from Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford who won a continuity award of £925 to subsidise his second year at the Central School of Design in London; and Stephen Lennon, a third year student from NCAD who won a £500 travelling award for his portable student's light design—he planned to use his winnings to tour factories, workshops and exhibitions in Denmark and Sweden.
Some of the subsequent winners of the Designer Development Awards depicted in this series include; Ann O'Donoghue a 1980 winner for her woven upholstery fabrics entry, who went on to study in Konstfactskolan in Stockholm as a result of the prize; Brian Cronin won a travel award in 1981 for his graphic design entry relating to tax and family law, he used his winnings to travel to New York and to the Milton Glazer Poster Studios; Anne Kennedy, a fashion diploma student from Limerick School of Art, received two Designer Development Awards – her first in 1980 and a second in 1981 – which allowed her to visit a number of fashion studios across Europe and to take a place in a fashion college in Paris respectively; Jackie Martin won a travel award in 1981 to visit fashion houses in New York; Adrienne Diamond, a glass-blowing student, won a study award in 1981 to continue her studies in Edinburgh College of Art; and Gearoid O Conchubhair, an industrial design student from NIHE, Limerick also won in 1981. Other winners depicted in this series include Declan O'Donoghue, Andrew Doherty (furniture design), Mary O'Brien (fashion design), Sadbh O'Neill, Olga Harnett (furniture design) and Moya Donnellan (fashion design).
Some of the accompanying record sheets for this series do not indicate if the designers were winners of bursaries such as the Designer Development Awards, or if they were Butler House Project participants. However, some are clearly identified and photographs illustrating their work are also included. A number of designers in the series are represented solely by studio head-shots and no samples of their work are included. A number of files at the end of the series relate to projects such as packaging design for Avonmore, a 1987 calender design, and some sketches relating to fashion leisure-wear and interior seating plans with measurements and swatches. No designers are identified with these files.