John Sorrell (designer)

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Sir John Sorrell
Personal details
John Sorrell

(1945-02-28) 28 February 1945 (age 77)
London, UK
SpouseFrances Newell
OccupationDesigner, education advocate

Sir John Sorrell CBE FRIBA FREng (born 28 February 1945) is a British designer and an advocate and campaigner for creative education and for the creative industries.

Early life[edit]

Sorrell was born in London in 1945 during an air raid in the Second World War. He attended Saturday morning art classes at Hornsey School of Art when he was 14. He then studied art and design there full-time between the ages of 16 and 19. His experience of Saturday morning art classes inspired his later foundation of the National Art & Design Saturday Club.[1]


John Sorrell set up his first business, Goodwin Sorrell, in 1964 with Chuck Goodwin. He co-founded the design and identity business Newell and Sorrell in 1976 with his wife, Frances Newell. The couple became one of Europe's biggest and most successful identity consultancies, with clients including British Airways, the Body Shop and the Royal Mail. The business won numerous awards for creativity and effectiveness.[2]

In 1997, Newell and Sorrell merged with Interbrand to form Interbrand Newell & Sorrell.[3] John and Frances left Interbrand Newell & Sorrell in 2000.

The Sorrell Foundation[edit]

John and Frances Sorrell co-founded the Sorrell Foundation in 1999 with the aim of inspiring creativity in young people and improving lives with good design.[4]

The Sorrell Foundation has worked with more than 100,000 young people across the UK on a range of programmes, including Joinedupdesignforschools, the Young Design Programme, myplace and Design out Crime. In 2009, John and Frances set up the National Saturday Club network. John is co-chair of the Sorrell Foundation.

National Saturday Club[edit]

Sorrell is co-founder and trustee of the National Saturday Club, a new charity formed in 2016 to take over the development of the Saturday Clubs from the Sorrell Foundation.

The Saturday Club network offers young people aged 13–16 the opportunity to study on Saturdays for free. Currently there are around 50 Clubs around the UK: Art & Design, Science & Engineering, Fashion & Business, and Writing & Talking.[5]

London Design Festival and London Design Biennale[edit]

Sorrell is chairman of London Design Festival, which he co-founded in 2003, and co-produces with Ben Evans. London Design Festival celebrates and promotes London's and the UK's creativity. The Festival brings over 400 events to an international audience each September and has become the standard bearer for over 100 design festivals set up in cities around the world since its inception.[6] He is president of London Design Biennale, which he co-founded in 2016, and co-produces with Ben Evans.

This biannual exhibition, staged at Somerset House, invites participating countries and cities to exhibit original design installations in response to a theme. Installations are curated by the leading museums and design organisations in the world.[7]

Other roles[edit]

Sorrell has been a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum since 2011,[8] and Chairman of University of the Arts London since 2013. University of the Arts London is Europe's largest specialist arts and design university.[9]

A UK Business Ambassador since 2009, Sorrell has been appointed by successive Prime Ministers to champion the UK's Creative Industries sector overseas.[10] He founded the Creative Industries Federation in 2014 - the independent voice for the UK's creative industries. The Creative Industries Federation unites the UK's diverse arts and creative industries to secure the policies and funding needed to further Britain's global success as a cultural powerhouse. In April 2017, he stepped down as chair of the Creative Industries Federation.[11]

Sorrell chaired the UK Design Council from 1994 to 2000 after carrying out a major review, which created a blueprint for the transformation and future strategy for the organisation. He was Chair of CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) from 2004 to 2009, a Vice-President of the Chartered Society of Designers from 1989 to 1992, and Chairman of the Design Business Association from 1990 to 1992.

Honours and awards[edit]

Sorrell was awarded a Knighthood in the 2008 New Year Honours List 'for services to the Creative Industries'.[12] He was appointed CBE in 1996,[13] and was awarded the Royal Society of Arts Bicentenary Medal in 1998.

He holds eight Honorary Doctorates, was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2002 and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2009.[citation needed]


Sorrell has published four books: Creative Island (Laurence King Publishing, 2002) and Creative Island II (Laurence King Publishing, 2009) feature inspired design from Great Britain. He co-authored Joinedupdesignforschools (Merrell, 2005) with his wife, Frances Sorrell. He co-authored 'Virtuous Circle' with Darren Henley and Paul Roberts (Elliott & Thompson, 2014).


  1. ^ Engl, Historic (31 August 2016). "London: A Design for Life". Heritage Calling. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  2. ^ "JOHN SORRELL * PROFILE; Championing design". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  3. ^ Cropper, Carol Marie (6 October 1997). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING -- ADDENDA; Omnicom Unit Buys Newell & Sorrell". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  4. ^ "The Sorrell Foundation". The Sorrell Foundation. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  5. ^ "About the Saturday Club Trust". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. ^ "About :: THE LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Home | London Design Biennale 2016". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  8. ^ "V&A · Trustees". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Sir John Sorrell named new Chairman of University of the Arts London - UAL News". UAL News. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Prime Minister's Business Ambassadors - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Sir John Sorrell to step down from Creative Industries Federation role - Design Week". Design Week. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Sorrell knighted in honours list". Building Design. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  13. ^ "John Sorrell receives CBE - Design Week". Design Week. 21 June 1996. Retrieved 2 March 2017.