Robin Day grew up in the furniture-making town of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, Great Britain and even though his family wasn’t in the industry itself, it was significant for Day’s choice of career. In 1931 Day started studying at the High Wycombe School of Art where he learned cabinetmaking and metalwork.
Two years later he took on a job in a local furniture factory but in 1934 received a scholarship from the RCA (Royal College of Art) that made it possible for him to study at their college in London. For his degree project/diploma in 1937 Day designed several items of furniture that was made by craftsmen from his hometown. He also designed montages of modern interiors that impressed the college so much that he was offered a scholarship to study a fourth year.
It was during his time at the RCA that Day met his wife and partner to be, textile designer named Lucienne. They got married in 1942. Due to asthma Day wasn’t drafted to the army in World War II, but also couldn’t earn a living as a designer. He spent the war working as a teacher and exhibitions architect. His real breakthrough as a furniture designer came in 1948 when he, together with Clive Latimer, won the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Day and Latimer’s winning entry was a range of plywood storage units suspended on aluminum tubes. By winning the competition Day got an invitation to work with the British manufacturer Hille, that specialized in reproduction of historical furniture. Under Day’s supervision during the 1950’s the company underwent a massive transformation and started to produce ranges of modern furniture, first in molded plywood but mowed on to polypropylene in the 1960’s.
It is for his plastic chairs that Day is best known, starting with the Mark I in 1963, which was named “(…) the most significant development in British mass-produced chair design since the war” by the Architects Journal and received the British Design Centre Award in 1965. Due to it’s slim design, light weight and the fact that it was stackable, Day’s plastic chairs soon became popular in sports centers and concert halls all over the world.
Mark I was followed by armchairs and other pieces of furniture. Day also designed televisions- and radio sets for the British electronics company Pye, aircraft interiors for BOAC, carpet designs for Woodward Grosvenor and interior designs for several supermarkets and department stores. For Hille he was responsible for the marketing material, exhibitions and logo besides designing furniture until 2008. Robin Day died in 2010, at the age of 95.