This year’s Hot 50 is surprisingly without themes. In the past we have seen art, politics or key issues such as sustainability driving the choices of people, organisations or phenomena that have had a big impact on design, but this year there is no strong slant. All are in there, but to equal degree.
Thus we see politicians like Prime Minister Gordon Brown reappearing, largely on the strength of his reconfiguring of Civil Service departments following the disbanding of the Department of Trade & Industry and the inspired appointments he made in putting design aficionados James Purnell and Margaret Hodge in key posts at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. All has changed since then, politics being what it is, and it is debatable whether he will appear in the 2009 listing. But his presence here is by way of encouragement and a timely reminder that design can make a difference to the economy, given the right environment.
On the sustainability front, we introduce Three Trees Don’t Make a Forest as a great example how design – or in this case designers – can help make a difference by sharing information and experiences. The website and blog raise issues and invite comment on environmental topics impacting on design.
And fine art? Well, this year it doesn’t feature as such, though the Beck’s Fusions enterprise makes the grade for blending digital art with music in a public performance format.
There are a handful of regulars in the charts – Audi Design Foundation, Sir George Cox, the Helen Hamlyn Centre and the Wellcome Trust, for example. All have been consistent in their support of design over time, notching their commitment up a rung year-on-year.
Some are there in honour of a lifetime’s contribution, notably the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, while others, such as the Murray family, are there for an inspired bit of commissioning, in their case Thomas Heatherwick’s East Beach Café in Littlehampton. Some, like Mike Dempsey and Anthony Simonds-Gooding, are design industry figures who’ve gone the extra mile for design, while others, like Mike Collier, deputy headteacher of Newcastle’s Walker College of Technology which featured prominently in the local Designs of the Time initiative, are ‘civilians’ – ordinary people who have espoused design.
Then there are phenomena like blogging, opening up opportunities for design, while challenging its traditional role.
There are inevitably omissions – we can only include 50 contenders from a more extensive trawl. There are those that are bubbling under, whose achievements over the coming year might earn them a place in the 2009 listing, and those who have fallen short of the promise they showed earlier.
I would like to thank all who nominated contenders and the members of the panel who selected them for their interest and support. We hope you enjoy the outcome.
Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor, Design Week