Times are, indeed, tough – and perhaps a bit lonely for business leaders and freelances alike. Yet many of us have been through tough times before and we know it’s a question of riding it out. This recession is a global one, but there are pockets of growth all over the world. And what better place to showcase the latest products, trends and capabilities than in London, one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic design hubs. It’s a time to focus on core skills and key offers. The UK has a longstanding reputation as a global centre of design excellence and innovation.
Its design base comprises a huge range of businesses and delivers products and services to national and international clients on a daily basis, and has done so since the industrial revolution. UK design is innovative and creative, and yet manages to retain a focus on business outcomes. A quick canter through the winners of the annual DBA Design Effectiveness Awards shows the difference UK design talent and good procurement can make. Recent studies demonstrate that the current generation of UK business leaders has embraced design as an important element of strategy and international competitiveness. According to research published by the Design Council, more than half of UK businesses are planning to use design to help them survive the current economic downturn.
There is also high demand for British design thinking overseas. The Milan furniture fair this year showed how many of the leading Italian furniture manufacturers are working with British designers, and businesses in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America are increasingly looking to the UK to help them capitalise on global markets. Encouraged by highly skilled staff and high-quality academic and research support, the UK is still a leading location for many global manufacturing firms to base their design and development centres. In the past few years we have been able to welcome Panasonic, LG and Epson, to name a few, and interest from others remains strong.
It is also a time for innovation and new partnerships. UK-based architects pride themselves on their collaborative mentality and investigative approach. They are not just responsible for Britain’s everchanging landscape, but are in demand across the globe. They are acclaimed for their experimental, versatile and futuristic techniques and technologies, as well as for their abilities to build communities. Convergence in the digital world is forcing new partnerships and the evolution of new business models, which the UK’s multidisciplinary design community finds infinitely less challenging than others.
British designers are closely involved with major societal issues and are leading players in socially responsible and sustainable innovation. And they have the support of government, both nationally and regionally, to promote that capability internationally. With this sort of international presence, there is plenty of scope for optimism.
Christine Losecaat, Managing director, Little Dipper, and organiser of The Elevator Lounge, a ‘business-enabling’ space at 100% Design