Design Futures event to showcase Welsh potential

The flagship event of the Welsh design industry – Design Futures – takes place tonight, with the announcement of the winners of the third Ffres student design awards, backed by a host of industry pundits.

Among these are Welsh deputy first minister and minister for economy and transport Ieuan Wyn Jones, Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands and Super Furry Animals illustrator and animator Pete Fowler.

According to Design Wales’ senior design advisor Gavin Cawood, one of the key organisers behind the event, a major issue facing Wales is that businesses simply don’t have the region on their radars.

However, the event, now in its second year, and the student awards in its third, are helping to address this issue, as well as stemming the tide of creative talent leaving for the capital.

Companies including Ikea, retailer Peacocks, outdoor brand Gelert, HBOS and Rough Trade are involved this year, offering monetary rewards and year-long work placements for category winners across graphics, product/industrial, textiles and fashion design.

Among the briefs set for the student awards were HBOS’ brief to devise a credit card for both Halifax and Bank of Scotland, Rough Trade’s brief to create a visual language for musician Basia Bulat, and Gelert’s brief for a portable tent or shelter to accommodate the modern family.

Ikea has pledged to back an exhibition supporting the textiles category, while Peacocks has committed to producing the winning range. Winners in each of five categories will be chosen from a shortlist of three.

According to Design Wales, the aim of the awards is to prepare students for working in industry by setting competitive briefs from industry professionals in a bid to showcase future Welsh design talent.

According to the Design Council’s 2005 Design Industry Research report, Wales is home to just 4 per cent of UK design businesses, while only six consultancies out of a total of 340 are registered with the Design Business Association (DW 15 June 2006).

Sands says he will talk about the challenges in establishing a design consultancy outside of the capital, emphasising the importance of profile, networking and obtaining the support of industry organisations.

Also on the agenda for Sands will be the global trends that influence brands. He will discuss how consumer anxiety about issues such as terrorism and global warming is fuelling the demand for anti-celebrity and ‘authentic’ brands, while consumer nostalgia for more optimistic times is stimulating interest in retro brands and brands with a sense of humour.

Design Wales

• Is a design support programme for Welsh industry

• Funded by the Welsh Assembly

• Provides advice to about 350 companies and organises events attended by more than 1000 delegates

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