Thursday, 23 October 2014
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It’s time to do something about Government treatment of design

The question of how to classify and define the design industry is one that has vexed me since I started working on Design Week four years ago.

I came from the world of architecture – a clearly defined sector delineated by protection of title, ie you can’t call yourself an architect unless you’ve gone through the proper education process and are recognised by the Architects Registration Board.

The design sector, on the other hand, is wide-ranging, amorphous, undefinable. Building a new airline seat? You’re a designer.  Developing a suite of graphics? You’re a designer. Working with a company or organisation to completely reappraise the way it does business? Yep – you’re a designer.

In one way, of course, this is brilliant – ‘design’ as a discipline is wholly outward-facing and touches on pretty much everything we do. For us at Design Week this can mean writing about a new book cover in the morning and a plan to redesign hospital A&E departments in the afternoon.

But the failure of Government and other organisations to recognise an understand design is not only hugely frustrating but potentially damaging to the industry itself.

So you can end up with situations like the recent briefing I went to for the new Government’s new Creative Solutions Framework.

I was invited, alongside representatives from the marketing, advertising and PR press, as Cabinet Office unveiled the 30 companies who will be tasked with doing Government’s creative work – not a single design consultancy among them.

When I asked why there weren’t any design consultancies I was initially met with blank looks – it was as though the Government commissioners hadn’t even considered using design.

So on the surface, new Government proposals to recategorise design and the creative industries should be welcomed – the current classifications are clearly not having the desired effect.

But there are worrying signs here. Not only is Craft being dropped as a classification, but Design is set to lose its status as a single classification – being merged with Designer Fashion.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport says this is due to flaws in the current system (and the underlying Standard Industrial Classifications) which make it impossible to separate design and fashion from each other.

But lumping the two together can’t be the solution. Nor can failing to properly define the breadth and impact of the design industry. 

DCMS consultation on the proposals is open until 14 June, and we urge the design industry to take part.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I wholeheartedly agree that the design industry needs a shake up, it needs firm categorisation, not being shoved and pigeon-holed into more shades of grey. There are so many different times of design, categorisation could be stated quite easily. Graphic Design, doesn't exist any longer because it has been completely diluted, if you can move a few things around on a computer screen, you are now a graphic designer, really? That used to be called a Mac or PC operator, what used to be called graphic design, was people with a skill set in print design and the use of relevant products to use with the final design. A rare and great skill, in which there is a few and far between these days, because everyone is a graphic designer. You can take this one step further, Graphic artists are people who can manipulate and create new things from a digital file, I don't know of many Graphic Designers these days who can change the colour of hair, or recreate an part of an image that is missing. then theres Web Design, to look for a position in Web Design these days you are required to know a certain element of HTML or CSS, why? You are a designer you plan and create an interface or a website or an app to be coded, that is what web design is, the other title should be Web Developer, how many times I see these 2 jobs regarded as the same thing is unbelievable, I don't believe they should go hand in hand because they are entirely different, although both roles require an understanding of each other. I think the re categorising the Design industry it will help define realistic wages and solid skill sets, of which I think is very important to the future of the creative industry. I have mentioned and discussed from the print/media sector but I'm sure it's across the board, like you mentioned architecture design and Fashion Design, I'm sure these industries would benefit from solid categorisation as well. But I'm certain the Government will do something equally as ridiculous with this Industry as they have with everything else they touch. Perhaps we should re-categorise the House of Commons first.

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