Design Council plan needs industry input to succeed

So at last we have the Design Council’s plan for its future (see News, page 3 and feature, page 14). The fact it has taken so long to conceive in a way acts in favour of its main protagonist, Design Council chief executive David Kester, in design at least.

The relative silence of the past 12 months means the design community has largely forgotten what little it knew about the council and pledges by the previous administration to build bridges between the council and design. Design and innovation director Richard Eisermann is seen around the industry a lot, as was his predecessor Clive Grinyer, but former D&AD chief Kester has been absent from the scene.

What we have now though is a genuine desire to engage the design community in the programmes the council has planned. But above that there is a commitment to boost training and design representation to Government and industry, to build stronger links in education between creativity and business practice and to promote design’s ‘practical power’ to the public at large.

Much of this is reminiscent of the council’s previous incarnations. The desire to improve design representation harks back to the Halifax Initiative of the mid-1990s, of which the Design Council was, with Design Week, a founder partner, and the public promotion of design goes back to its inception in 1944 as the Council of Industrial Design – a post-war body bent on boosting consumer spending through design awareness, ahead of the 1951 Festival of Britain. Meanwhile, education has long been one of its strengths.

Kester has inherited a number of great people and projects from his predecessor Andrew Summers, working to the 1990s blueprint drawn up by the then chairman John Sorrell. But never before have all these elements come together in one mission, nor has there been quite the campaigning zeal we are experiencing now.

There is much for design to gain from Kester’s strategy. He is ‘one of us’, having proved himself to be a design champion as chief executive of D&AD, and he is keen to engage with the design community now – not least in a nationwide debate on issues relating to design’s role in boosting the UK economy (see News, page 3 and feature, page 14). He and his team believe fervently in collaboration, with design as a partner.

But any partnership has to be two-way to succeed, with both parties being open with each other. The design community should therefore seek to meet Kester halfway at least for the strategy to be effective. A good start would be to share with him, via Design Week’s pages, those issues you perceive as key to design’s role socially and economically, and how the creative community can move them on. Over to you.

Lynda Relph-Knight

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