Designers need to set the media straight about design’s true potential

The past few days will be remembered for the political shenanigans that have dominated the media. But there was a small respite from politics as the media cast its gaze to design.

Friday brought the first instalment of the BBC Two TV series The Genius of Design, The Designed World. Then on Saturday, The Times newspaper dedicated its Luxx supplement to design.

It is great to see the media taking an interest, but these two incarnations did little to dispel the myths that design is primarily about objects – or at best buildings – and that it generates expensive, luxury goods.

BBC Two’s offering unashamedly seeks to ’reveal the origins of everyday objects and pay tribute to those who created them’. The first episode, titled Ghosts in the Machine, was billed as ’the fascinating story of the birth of industrial design’ and was engaging and informative, taking design from craft through to mass-production, but with a contemporary feel. Luxx, meanwhile, focused predictably on celebrity through the likes of Marc Newson, Paul Smith and Philippe Starck.

Monday evening, meanwhile, saw the first High Street Dreams episode on BBC One. This promised a more mundane approach to packaging design, but ended up in something of a drubbing for participants from Pearlfisher and Blue Marlin.

Two things come out of these experiences. We need to engage the media and the public more in the breadth of design, its process and subtleties, from service and co-design through communications and product, and highlight its economic and social value. We also need more media-savvy champions from within the industry to front design on TV.

With Government focus on training, prompted by Gordon Brown’s outgoing administration, designers need to hone their presentation skills and undertake media training. This could provide a pool of practitioners more adept at countering challenges from experienced pundits.

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