Vox Pop

Passions ran high at a recent Design Business Association debate in London on the subject of leadership (see Comment, DW 8 December). The consensus was that leadership is lacking within design as an industry, in terms of raising creative and business standards and lobbying for design in the wider world. How do you think the issue should be addressed?

‘The whole issue of leadership in design is a bit of a red herring. What do we need leadership for? British Design & Art Direction has done a great job for many years in raising creative standards. The Design Business Association has single-handedly put effectiveness on to the agenda, and under John Sorrell and Andrew Summers’ stewardship, the Design Council has put design firmly on the political agenda. It’s time for an industry-wide debate on the industry itself. Until we in design raise our game, bodies like the DBA and the Design Council don’t have a worthwhile constituency to lead. We must overcome apathy. Many designers are too quick to point the finger at industry bodies when really they should do as US President John F Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.’

Jonathan Sands, Chairman, Elmwood and Instigator in 1997 of the Halifax Initiative

‘The solution is education and therefore ultimately rests with the Government. Leadership skills, like creativity, can be taught in the classroom (and elsewhere), but this doesn’t let industry off the hook. Education is sadly lacking once people have landed their first job.’

Richard Watson, co-founder, Global Innovation Network

‘Leaders require followers herein lies the biggest problem. Our industry is peopled by intelligent, critical and egotistical individuals. It takes lots of charisma and energy to raise one’s head above the parapet and keep it there. However, the design industry badly needs a singular charismatic organisation to which designers, industry, media and the public can turn. We currently have D&AD, Design Council, CSD, DBA, RSA, Design Week – as one umbrella organisation with areas of expertise we could speak with a much stronger voice. Leaders would inevitably rise within this. So how to get there? Membership of RIBA is compulsory but only on qualification, membership of the Institute of Master Builders is not – which do you trust? The organisation needs to encourage the best people to join – yet be inclusive – it needs a strong and charismatic leader here we go again!’

Keren House, Creative Director, Sieberthead

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