Former Design Council chief to lead HS2 design support

David Kester and Associates has been appointed following its work on the development of a Design Vision for the huge public-sector project.

Visualisation of the HS2 hub at Crewe
Visualisation of the HS2 hub at Crewe

David Kester and Associates, the consultancy led by the former Design Council chief executive, has been appointed to give design support to the huge HS2 high-speed rail network project.

HS2 is a plan to build a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham and then on to the North West and Yorkshire.

Should plans be fully approved – construction has been signed off but route details are currently at committee stage in the House of Commons – building could start in 2017 and trains could start running in 2026.

Top designers create vision

Kester has previously worked with designers including Thomas Heatherwick, Paul Priestman and Sophie Thomas to create a “Design Vision” for the nework.

The Design Vision document, which was published last year, will be used to guide the design and delivery of the project and outlines three main priorities: people, place and time.

David Kester and Associates has now been appointed to work on a “design engagement and facilitation programme” for HS2, following a tender process.

Moving to programme phase

Kester says the appointment comes at a time when “the organisation is shifting from the Parliamentary phase into the programme phase”, adding that in April alone, £11 billion-worth of contracts covering civil engineering projects for HS2 will be put out to tender.

Kester adds: “We’re there to support the organisation and to bring the Design Vision into everyday practice and culture – to integrate it into the organisation.

“We’re there to ensure that HS2 can be the great design client it should be.”

Design endorsed by Secretary of State

One of the key priorities, Kester says, will be to ensure that HS2 “engages and communicates well around design”.

He adds: “We’ve got a strong Design Vision, it’s been approved by the Secretary of State [Patrick McLoughlin] and it’s embedded in HS2’s corporate principles.”

At the end of last year, HS2 also appointed a 43-strong independent design panel, which will comment on HS2 design projects.

Among those sitting on the panel are Barclays director of customer experience Clive Grinyer, Co-operative group design director Ben Terrett, PearsonLloyd co-founder Luke Pearson and Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands.

David Kester and Associates’ HS2 appointment comes shortly after the launch of the new Design Thinkers Academy, an organisation offering design thinking training for leadership teams at large organisations, which is led by Kester.

Discover more:

• Designers appointed to influence huge HS2 rail network

• Heatherwick and others create HS2 “design vision”

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