Picture yourself at a party, introducing yourself as a ‘chartered designer’. It may send shivers up the spine – the term chartered is, after all, most often associated with accountants – but if the Chartered Society of Designers succeeds in its application to make design a chartered industry, this scenario could become a reality.
The Privy Council is currently mulling over the CSD’s application to confer chartered status on individual designers (News, DW 28 January), a move that sections of the industry have long yearned for as a way to regulate design and raise its status with clients, the Government and the general public.
According to the CSD, the journey to becoming a chartered designer will involve being assessed and accepted as a member of an awarding body, promising to follow a code of professional ethics and committing to a career-long programme of annual continuing professional development.
As is the case for chartered marketers, who would be among designers’ closest relatives in the family of chartered professions, designers could be randomly audited on an annual basis. If poor business practice or inadequate CPD attendance are discovered, they may lose their chartered status. If the scheme took off, few would want to risk the ignominy.
Many industry figures are broadly keen to get the design industry behind the introduction of a chartered professional badge.
Libby Brodhurst, chief executive of the Institution of Engineering Designers, which is considering becoming an awarding body of the new chartered designer badge, says, ‘The main task for the CSD is to demonstrate the worth of becoming chartered to designers.’
If the scheme receives buy-in from clients and designers alike, the rewards for designers’ commitment could include financial remuneration. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, its members earn 2-12 per cent more than non-members, a trend that could be replicated in the design world. ‘There is a definite financial advantage to being chartered,’ says David Thorp, CIM director of research and professional development.
The CIM first began awarding chartered status to its members in 1998. Thorp remembers the measure being ‘welcomed by the industry, but the one question that was asked was how relevant it was to marketing’.
Despite being broadly in favour of the proposals, Design Business Association chief executive Deborah Dawton queries the relevance of CPD for the UK’s top-flight designers. ‘Many of the talented designers our industry boasts did not get to where they are through CPD programmes,’ says Dawton.
She is also concerned about the inclusion of ‘creativity’ in the assessment criteria. Creativity is one of four criteria proposed by the CSD for chartered designers, along with professionalism, skills and knowledge, but Dawton wonders how objectively creativity can be measured. ‘This process is always fraught with controversy – just look at awards judging,’ she says.
Brodhurst adds that, unlike graphic designers, digital designers and designer-makers in particular, ‘[IED] members are used to working in more regimented industries than the arts and crafts end of design’. She imagines that the early adopters of the chartered design status would come from ‘the narrow band of people who bridge the gap between engineering and arts-based design’, including product and interior designers. Only once there is a ‘critical mass’ of chartered designers will the chartered badge be fully accepted by the industry and its clients, says Brodhurst.
Dawton hopes that the CSD ‘heavily involved its membership in the consulting process, because organisations like ours have the power to change the way the industry operates’. While the CSD claims it received unanimous support from members who attended a meeting to assess the scheme last December, Dawton was disappointed that her request to the CSD for further information about the proposal, following a one-page letter from the society, did not get a response.
‘Something like this could be great for designers, but without further information I cannot take this to the DBA board, which is made up of practitioners, to assess it. It is up to them to decide whether the CSD has selected appropriate assessment criteria,’ says Dawton. She intends to pursue the matter with the CSD.
Brian Webb, CSD past president and founder of Webb & Webb Design, is unequivocally enthusiastic about the benefits of the scheme for designers, clients – and the CSD itself.
‘The CSD has been very inward-looking in the past few years, and there is apparently no benefit to belonging to the society apart from legal advice and training schemes. If the CSD starts to offer individual chartered status to members, then the body will grow. This could spell a new dawn for the CSD,’ says Webb.
Individual bonus points
- A possible increase in turnover for individual chartered designers
- Increased levels of trust from clients
- A raised profile for the industry
- Regulation of the industry
- A code of ethics, which would protect individual designers from unreasonable demands by clients, and potentially lead to a reduction in intellectual property theft