Allen graduated from the Royal College of Art in the 1960s, when not many people knew what an industrial designer did. Allen was always at pains to explain that it was not just a question of the product’s appearance, it encompassed all the production engineering and mechanical stages to take a product from concept to market. He was a talented draftsman and for most of his professional life, Allen’s designs were produced by hand, with 3D visuals as well as detailed engineering drawings.
Inspired by his Meccano set, Allen knew from an early age that he wanted to design mechanical objects. He went to Merchant Taylors’ school and then enrolled on a Foundation Course at Hornsey Art College. He went on to read Mechanical Engineering at Manchester University and from there, obtained a scholarship to study Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art in London. During his time there, he designed hoppers for moving books around in a bookshop, a hospital bed, a parking meter, and received a prize for his pushchair design. He was a great admirer of the designers and architects of the Bauhaus, notably Walter Gropius who designed the Dessau Art School, and Mies van der Rohe whose adage, ‘less is more’, Allen adhered to and often quoted.
On graduation, he joined Hulme Chadwick and Partners, an architectural and design practice. His work there included the design of a new corporate identity for Bass Charrington. Together with Bob Stuart, an award-winning electronics engineer, he designed a pre-amplifier and power amplifier for a new hi-fi company, Lecson Audio, which earned them a British Design Council Award in 1974 and are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A in London.
After 3 years, it was time to move on and he joined Cambridge Consultants Ltd in 1972 to set up their Industrial Design division. One of his designs was an electric bicycle, awarded to the winner of the Prince Philip Designers Prize. Meanwhile, Bob had also moved to Cambridge and together he and Allen founded Meridian Audio. They designed, manufactured, and sold the entire product range themselves, with very little investment. Allen and Bob received their second Design Council Award for the company’s 100 Series in 1982. In 1986, a new line – the 200 Series – was launched and continued to be produced until 1993. It grew to include the whole range of domestic hi-fi, from CD players, radio tuners, pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers, digital-to-analogue converters, and a range of multi-room components, all designed by Bob and Allen. A series of active loudspeakers (with on-board amplifiers) was developed and brought to market in 1988. By this time, Meridian Audio had become known for its state-of-the-art electronics, distinctive design style, and corporate identity. In 1988, Bob and Allen were presented with their third Design Council Award by the Duke of Edinburgh, becoming the first design team to win this award on three occasions.
In 1991, Allen founded his own consultancy, Cambridge Product Design Ltd, offering one-stop design solutions, which he ran from his home in Little Shelford. His designs included the BBC Microcomputer, Europe’s most successful educational computer of its time, a new class of loudspeaker for Canon, the first Patientline (providing a phone/TV/Radio console for hospital patients), the Aga Masterchef range cooker, a coffee machine, timpani drums, and different types of loudspeaker for KEF, Celestion, THX, and Russound. He continued as Design Director of Meridian Audio.
Allen’s semi-retirement provided time for him to indulge his hobbies: drawing and painting, tennis, golf, and music. From the 1990s, he would always take his sketch pad on holiday and took pleasure in sitting in front of a historic building or view that captured his imagination. He was instrumental in the fundraising and design for a new village hall in Little Shelford and co-founded the Pavilion Art Group, helping artists to develop their skills. Listening to music was always an important part of Allen’s life – in particular classical, jazz, and popular music.
Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018, the first thing he did was to buy a Porsche and book a holiday to Australia. Allen and Judy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. He is survived by Judy, their daughter Emily, and baby granddaughter, Edie.