It’s time to stand up and argue the case for design

We’ve heard it all before – pundits speaking out about the cost of design for public projects. But the piece that appeared in The Times on Boxing Day went one step further. Taking the 60th anniversary logo for the National Health Service as its cue, the newspaper quoted Tory MP Greg Hands as saying ‘anyone with an average brain’ could design, given the software packages available.

Inevitably, Hands’ words have prompted a response (see News, page 3 and Voxpop, page 11). Members of design collective Design Assembly, in particular, have taken Hands to task over the issue. But while they are justified in their concerns over his attitude to design, it is surely time that, as an industry, we progressed the argument supporting its commercial and social effectiveness, rather than merely sniping back at our attackers.

With the exception of the Design Council, which is slowly making inroads into the public sector, bodies such as the Design Business Association and D&AD have gone quiet on the subject. The DBA is no doubt anticipating the report it is working on with The Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group to boost public sector procurement of design, delayed from November 2009 and now due to be published early this year, while D&AD probably does not see client issues as part of its remit.

But how much more helpful it would be if one or all of the bodies were poised to respond unprompted in print and on public platforms whenever wild allegations are made about the cost, rather than the value, of design, using reasoned argument to make the case. We are certainly blessed with astute practitioners of stature whose voices would be heard.

It is all very well pointing up the failings of clients and public figures to grasp design’s contribution to business and the community, but it is up to us to persuade them to reconsider their views. Many of us are, after all, in the business of effective communication and should use our expertise more to push our own cause.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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  • Dominic H. Roberts November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Something I’ve been thinking over recently,

    Businessmen/persons usually work with stocks and figures. Factors which can be analyzed in a board room on a flow chart by a team of experts (who are shockingly enough only experts in their own field). Perhaps these businessmen/persons, Greg Hands included, do not value the importance of good design within a company because its effectiveness cannot be measured with a ruler. Maybe the only part of design that has any effect on them is the invoice after the jobs completion.

  • Roy Wylam November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This entire article written by Lynde Relph-Knight puts across many valid points, at least some one is standing up for design.

  • Gill Dalrymple November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Read comment on the article from MD of Bell, one of the design agencies mentioned by Emily Gosden and Greg Hands. We absolutely should stand up for our design industry.

  • Tim Murphy November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I come across people like Greg Hands regularly when meeting what, hopefully, will become new clients. It often takes some speculative creative work in front of them before they can appreciate the impact professional design can have on their business compared to the materials they previously thought acceptable produced by ‘someone in the office’. Show someone something fantastic and they find it hard to let go of it. Unfortunately this seems to be the only way to educate some people. Someone should take Mr. Hands outside and show him the current billboard campaign for his party and ask him who did them, how much they cost and if he would maybe fancy knocking the next lot up himself.

    His uneducated comments reflect badly on him not the design community.

  • Ashley Khan November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I completely agree with Dom. When designs and concepts are created they are to illicit a response from the consumer or their targeted audience and NOT directly to provide a ROI
    When you see a new Nike advert, it doesn’t make you instantly want to buy everything that Nike produce, instead it creates a link to that brand on a variety of levels (could be the star they use in the ad, the product, brand loyalty due to previous product etc) – hence why design is extremely important – its not a case of ROI but of communicating with your audience.

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