Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association, and Rodney Fitch, founder and chairman of Fitch, have advised design students and graduates not to form their own consultancies in the current financial climate.
Speaking at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London on Monday, Dawton told the audience, ‘I wouldn’t start a design consultancy if I wanted to make money. It’s going to be very tough – you are going to be competing against experienced people.’v She added, ‘Going travelling would be “Plan B” on my list.’ Fitch backed up her comments and paraphrased author Malcolm Gladwell, saying, ‘If I was Prime Minister, you would not be allowed to start a business until you’d worked 10 000 hours on someone else’s dollar.’v Dawton and Fitch were joined by Charles Saumarez Smith, secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, and Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, at the event, which explored the status of art and design education in the UK.
Referring to the current number of design graduates in the UK, Fitch said, ‘How on earth would we absorb them? Is this a blessing or a curse?’ He added, ‘Can we continue to view an arts education as vocational, or would it be better if everyone had an arts education but was not expected to work in the creative industries?’
Dawton said, ‘It’s becoming harder for design consultancies to find quality graduates.
They need fewer technical executionists. What they really need are good design thinkers.’ Fitch also referred to the City Academy programme of public/private education funding, which has seen initiatives such as James Dyson’s now-abandoned plans for a design school in Bath. He said, ‘Why shouldn’t the big creative sectors – broadcasting, advertising, design – contribute to their seedcorn?’
MORE ADVICE FROM DEBORAH DAWTON
- Universities should seek the advice of more experienced members of the design industry
- Lecturers should make sure that they are experiencing the practice of design
- Universities should involve clients more in project work, but make sure they are not trying to pick up projects which should be going to the industry
- Students should maintain drawing skills, and try to work for one day a week without switching on their computer