Move forward to make stereotypes disappear

With luck, by the end of the decade, client/designer caricatures will be just a bit of historic fun (see page 16). With design management set to become the sociology of the Nineties for colleges and Dutch publisher BIS launching a magazine, Design in Business, in The Netherlands this month, the divide is being breached across Europe. We can only hope that genuine understanding between designer and client – and greater creativity – will result.

One of the big differences between sociology in the Sixties and new design management studies is the tight resources colleges now have. Each course has to be structured to build on a college’s strengths and projected job opportunities. Staffordshire University’s planned BA course, for example, will be run jointly by its design and business schools; in other colleges only one school is host. This variety is good. The best design comes from client/designer partnerships and if design’s role is to accentuate a company’s point of difference there has to be more than one approach. The danger is that we in design leave it solely to colleges like Staffordshire to produce design-aware clients rather than create our own opportunities to bridge the gap.

We could, for example, school young designers in business practice without impairing their creative skills.

Students say too few external tutors set project briefs demanding costing and scheduling, yet it’s often this “real world” stuff that ignites the creative spark.

Design groups should also look at how they make presentations to clients. It’s not enough to trot out the same old mood boards when there’s a chance to flaunt creative flair, as a handful of strong Continental stands at Maastricht’s European Designer event showed last week, putting the Brits to shame.

To win the understanding and respect of clients, you have to show them what you can do. Wouldn’t you trust someone outstanding at their own business more than a so-called partner who is patently only playing the game?

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