China may be a leading world market, but Chinese consumers are still wary of home-grown brands. It is therefore not uncommon for local manufacturers to go abroad – notably to the US – to develop their brands before introducing them to China. The thinking is that only with the credibility earned in other countries will they be acceptable to people back home.
You can’t help thinking that there is an element of this in The Scottish Show Comes Home, which opened at Glasgow’s celebrated architecture and design centre The Lighthouse last week.
The show of work by relatively young Scottish groups and individual creatives has already been seen on the international circuit, having featured at major events in Milan and London last year. But it has taken a homecoming for it to demonstrate the strength and diversity of contemporary Scottish talent to local business and provoke great festivities in the local design camp.
Of the participants, Timorous Beasties and One Foot Taller are well established on both sides of the border. But the show, curated in partnership with London-based Designersblock activists Piers Roberts and Rory Dodd, has brought wider attention to talents such as bag designer Laura Murray, environment-friendly group Blue Marmalade and illustrator Sarah Tripp.
But if Scotland has been slow to adopt The Scottish Show, it has no lack of belief in the potential of its creative community. Using the show’s opening as a platform to launch the Six Cities Festival (see News, page 3), Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell gave an impassioned speech about Scotland’s ability to compete with the world through the strength of its creative economy – and even to become a global leader.
Such was the sincerity behind McConnell’s words that Design Council representatives and the rest of the London contingent present could only wish that his obvious zeal for design would rub off on his Westminster counterparts. This is the kind of inspiration the UK needs to galvanise designers and clients into confident action.
That Scotland has been first in the race in the UK, through the Six Cities Festival, to launch a comprehensive creative biennial, indicates that McConnell’s are not hollow words. The £3m funding for the venture from the Scottish Executive reinforces the belief that creativity is a key to the country’s economic future.
There’s a lot to be said for ‘devolution’ in design. Much can be achieved relatively quickly at local level, while initiatives can become bogged down if they aspire to national status. We hope to hear more very soon from regions such as the North East that have their own plans for creative biennials.