Pre-election murmurs must translate to action

We’ve had a second missive from an MP, spelling out the importance his party places on design. Sadly, Tory MP Sir Michael Marshall’s letter (opposite) arrived too late to appear alongside that of Labour’s Adam Ingram (DW 8 November) and give us the symmetry form dictates in the run up to a General Election. But it is good to see such interest in design emanating from Parliament.

What I would say to both honourable gentlemen though is that fine words are one thing, appearing in a manifesto or uttered to a gathering of design stalwarts – as were Ian Lang’s at the reception to which Sir Michael refers. What inspires us more is action and signs of a real understanding that the role of design extends beyond wealth creation.

If a government of any colour were to take a lead by sorting out Civil Service design buying policies, we’d raise our hats to them. It is a subject high on the agendas of Design Council chairman John Sorrell and Chartered Society of Designers president Nick Jenkins – and both have our wholehearted support in their endeavours. Not an obvious vote-getter though.

But whatever officialdom does for design, those best placed to build perceptions of the industry are designers themselves. Too bad therefore that so much current work is mediocre. Take the Swindon and Wiltshire identities (see News, page 4). You can’t judge an identity’s success by its marque, but it stands a better chance with a strong logo at its core.

Design is rife with terms such as “strategy” and “added value”. Politicians talk of “wealth creation” while design groups think “survival”. But aren’t we forgetting design’s special qualities?

I’ve recently heard both Mark Wickens of Wickens Tutt Southgate and Paul Hanegraaf, UK head of US architect- ural practice RTKL, using the phrase “What if?” to describe the thinking they instill in their creative teams. They are not alone. But nor am I in wanting to see more ideas and innovation coming from the design community.

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