Summer high for design bodes well for the future

We enter high summer on a positive note for the future of design. Graduate shows at schools like the Royal College of Art and collective events such as D&AD’s New Blood and New Designers highlight the best of the new generation. Meanwhile, top-level changes within a couple of key institutions bode well for the continued focus on excellence in design.

Work at the graduate shows reminds us what makes design special – ingenuity and an abiding fascination with craft, tinged with overt passion. However tough the climate, these designers will make their mark in one way or another and, with luck, their enthusiasm and insight will rub off on older design hands jaded by current business pressures.

Some student projects underline the potential of design to question the way we do things. Take RCA graduate Jorge Lopes dos Santos’ use of product design technology to create 3D renditions of human embryos from medical scans to enable doctors to assess foetal abnormalities.

Design is far from just an exercise in styling now, but can be a key driver in communication and social change. Developing these themes is among the challenges facing not just Paul Thompson when he takes over from Professor Sir Christopher Frayling as RCA rector in September, but also Tim O’Kennedy, as he takes up the reins at D&AD (, 30 June).

Never has the chief executive’s role at D&AD been more crucial. It is almost two years since Michael Hockney left and, while finance director Dara Lynch has held the fort admirably and restored it to financial health, it hasn’t fully addressed questions raised by shifts in technology and social expectations of advertising and design.

It is early days for O’Kennedy, but he is ready to grasp the nettle, with ‘futureproofing’ D&AD at the top of his agenda. He can’t yet say what that entails, but given his track record and energy, we can expect his response to be speedy and appropriate to the challenge. Sounds a bit like great design really.

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