Escape the pigeon-hole by reading the market

Whatever you think of his architecture, you’ve got to admire Mario Bellini’s nerve (see Profile, page 14). To shift disciplines so spectacularly in mid career is something few designers would contemplate. Even fewer could hope to be as successful as Bellini’s architectural work suggests he is, or keep their hand in at their old job in the way that he has done – he speaks of new designs for street furniture and teaspoons for a cutlery range just as he describes his buildings.

But then Bellini is Milanese, and that’s what happens there. He shrugs the shift in direction off as normal for Italy while we in Britain boggle at his audacity.

Pigeon-holing is what we’re about. It shows in our education structure and in the way designers describe themselves. Everyone aspires to be a specialist, however small the area of specialisation. But while passion moves global greats like Bellini to redirect their creativity, the brighter sparks in the UK design industry are sussing out change by reading the markets.

Wickens Tutt Southgate’s bid for “brand realisation” is one such move (see News, page 3). Its approach smacks very much of Imagination’s creed when some five years ago it launched from events into mainstream design – indeed, WTS’s Paul Southgate acknowledges the comparison. The difference is that WTS is taking on the ad world while Imagination ventured the other way – and didn’t coin naff phrases to sum up its endeavours.

At the time we hailed Imagination’s tactics as the way the industry should go – not just multidisciplinary, but all-embracing in an offer geared to superbranding. The

Millennium job notwithstanding, Imagination hasn’t yet pulled it off – the wrong breaks, the wrong people or simply being too advanced in its thinking? Meanwhile, other groups have twigged that the future lies in developing new creative skills and a more strategic role – last week, for example, we wrote of 20/20’s plan to move up a gear.

It’s great to see designers harnessing change in the fight for wider recognition. Long may the battle continue.

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