The Design Does It initiative couldn’t have come at a better time. As life gets even tougher for many in design in the run up to Christmas, there is hope here of a new dawning of design awareness across the Civil Service and a more effective approach to buying design. And for once it is a hands-on exercise rather than a talking shop.
The initiative is likely to build confidence within Government departments and agencies about how design can fulfil their communication needs without adding to their costs, which in turn might engender a more adventurous spirit in commissioning consultancies and pushing for better work. And with an estimated 200-300 civil servants going through the Design Does It programme in the first year alone, its impact promises to be substantial. We might even see the groups that vie for work with creatively led organisations like British Design & Art Direction involved in central Government work.
But this isn’t the only benefit to be had from Design Does It. It is born of a rare and powerful partnership that bodes well for the future of design in business, providing a model that other ventures might usefully follow.
The Design Business Association, which started the ball rolling, brings its vast experience of effectiveness to the table – and it is very apt that Vicky Sargent, the DBA’s first chief executive under whom the Design Effectiveness Awards were introduced in the late 1980s, is part of the team; the Design Council brings not only the cash to back it, but its own research into Government needs, manifested in its on-line ‘tool-kit’ for design buyers in the sector; and COI Communications, brought in by the Design Council, adds credibility to the venture among civil servants and provides a means of promoting the scheme.
The only downside so far has been the reticence shown by all parties to promote the venture beyond Government circles ahead of the first session. The DBA in particular needs to be telling the industry what it is up to as it continues its membership drive, especially as, as Design Week went to press, it was not expected to name its new chief executive at yesterday’s annual general meeting as it had promised. Meanwhile, the Design Council needs all the brownie points it can muster if it is to build bridges with the design community.
DBA director Julian Grice, The Team’s managing director who has nurtured the venture from the start, maintains Design Does It could work as well for commercial clients as for Government agencies. That being the case, the sooner a commercial partner in, say, the Confederation of British Industry is added to the line-up the better, to boost private/public sector understanding.