There are a handful of architects – not least Danish practice Schmidt Hammer Larsen in whose London Bridge office Design It London head Jim Dawton plans to build his team. Meanwhile, Scandinavian furniture designers have made major inroads into the UK – take Norway Says and other groups of its generation – but few are based here.
Dawton says there are fundamental differences between British and Scandinavian thinking – while we in the UK are quite individualistic, they are more holistic in their approach and that affects the way business is done.
Design It, for example, is not a specialist, though its three founders shared a product design background before they set up some 20 years ago. It has a strong reputation in healthcare design – something Dawton shares through his experience at Pearson Matthews – but also works in other areas and across disciplines.
But what really sets it apart is that one of the founders, Mikal Halltrup, has the title ‘chief visionary officer’ – it is his job to think. The blend of design and strategy is therefore deeply embedded in the group and Dawton maintains that this will lead to new models, particularly in service design. He talks, for example, of the notion of a hospital being like an aircraft, with private healthcare integrated in five-star accommodation, but with a common standard of treatment throughout and everyone heading in the same direction towards health.
Examples such as these couldn’t be more welcome now that the UK Government is showing deep commitment to design in addressing social concerns. Design It London isn’t going to change things on its own, especially in its early days, but we can hope that its thinking will help stir up the debate.