Go and spot talent at a grass roots level

I read with interest your editorial comment (DW 15 November 1995), and while I agree that the feelgood factor is indeed lacking, all is not gloom and doom.

I invite you to take a look at what is happening in our schools. I often visit exhibitions – particularly of A-level design and technology – and am impressed by the wealth and level of design, engineering and craft skills exhibited by our young students. Yet at each show I am concerned and disappointed by the lack of design press and the professional design/engineering world in attendance. Come on – even footballers are scouted at an early stage in their careers in order to nurture them through their apprenticeships and to obtain the best from them at a professional level – so why not designers? Why don’t companies attend such exhibitions – or better still, take an active interest in the schools themselves – in order to search out this wealth of talent, and then offer either employment or sponsorship through relevant and appropriate degree courses?

The co-operation and input of the design professionals is an essential ingredient for the training of designers. As Doug Hamilton of Wolff Olins says: “There is a role for designers to take the initiative in changing the UK’s perception [of itself] and therefore changing reality, which is the role they have always had but never taken up” (DW 15 December 1995).

My concern, as an educator of design students, is that design (and in particular engineering/ industrial design) has such a bad image for many young people. I know from direct experience that A-level students are often reluctant to consider design/engineering careers due to ignorance of what is involved, low status and low esteem of the designer in society – not to mention low pay!

It is also true to say that in many cases we need to re-educate the educators. There is often little collaboration between degree level courses in, say, product design and the product design element in the A-level design and technology syllabus – this can lead to a duplication of work in the first year of the degree course.

There is more choice regarding design courses today than there has ever been, and these courses are well subscribed to. My concern is aimed at the ones that get away – those potential designers who, for some of the reasons mentioned, refuse to even consider a design-based career.

We all want the best from British design and manufacture – so let’s all pull together and start from grass roots.

Martin O’Leary

Design and Technology


St. David’s College


Wales LL30 1RD

Latest articles

Upcoming design books to look out for

Spotlighting marginalised women designers, “heads on” design solutions to environmental issues and more – these are the anticipated design books we think you should read.