How do you feel the UK design industry will be shaped by politics this year, particularly by Brexit?
Creative people are attracted to open, diverse cultures; places where they are welcomed, not ‘permitted’. Brexit will be a huge threat to the design industry’s biggest asset — talent. The risk we now face is heading into 2019 with the dual squeeze of diminishing investment in creative education, alongside the challenges of retaining and attracting talent from the European Union (EU). Crude measures around salary levels for skilled workers mean those young and starting out may no longer look to the UK as an immediate choice. This is a huge talent red flag for us.
I asked my Advisory Board member Helen Fuchs, design director at UsTwo, what she felt, and she added: “While we’ll look to homegrown talent to fill the gap, the real question is how we can thrive, when the number of students taking art, design and technology subjects at GCSE continues to fall. A positive is to now focus on creating the right environment to foster UK talent and once again celebrate creative subjects in schools.”
Keeping creativity on the school curriculum simply must be a priority for developing talent post-Brexit.
What do you think is the most notable thing that happened politically for designers in 2018?
Data and diversity. Firstly, looking back at the slew of data scandals from Facebook and the onslaught of fake news from all corners, ethics in design was front and centre in 2018. New products, services and algorithms are shaping the way we interact with the world, and each other, at pace. Designers now have to acknowledge their role and accountability in what they are producing and have a responsibility to design with wider public values in mind.
Secondly, they will also have to firmly put diversity and inclusion at the heart of all design, keeping in mind the huge breadth of audiences we serve (black, Asian and minority ethnic [BAME], neurodiverse, disabled, older, and so on). Only 11% of design directors are currently women — we firmly believe representation of design ethos and work needs to embrace equality, propelled forward by the #MeToo movement, gender pay gap reporting and the need to make sure diverse work is created by diverse teams, with a strong focus on gender.