Regional creative networks can have a national impact

There was a time when, you could argue, publications such as Design Week were London-centric. The design industry’s energy was focused in the capital and that was reflected in media coverage.

Then, among key players, only product designers seemed to set up outside London, often with links to colleges or clients in, say, the automotive industry – although they have always worked internationally, so maybe location isn’t key.

There were exceptions, of course. Traditionally, Glasgow School of Art alumni stayed on in that city, for example, but graduates generally flocked to the capital for their first jobs in the belief that the streets were paved with gold – or, at least, with D&AD Yellow Pencils.

That’s all changed. For a start, most consultancies of any prominence now work across the globe. But, more importantly, technology has made communications such that it ceases to matter where a consultancy is based.

One of the great things to come out of these shifts is confidence in the regions. This has spawned a raft of creative networks, raising local issues and engaging with clients. The South Coast Design Forum is the latest to emerge, joining the pool from which the Design Council and others can pick hosts for national programmes.

As with initiatives elsewhere, SCDF owes its existence to local activists. Allies such as creative entrepreneurs Wayne Hemingway and Peter Murray will ensure its instigator, John McFaul, considerable success with the venture. But it was the involvement of former business advisor Peter Spence that really got it going.

Great things tend to come from a meeting of creative and business visionaries. With each wielding influence through their network, creative standards can get a boost and the design message becomes entrenched with clients.

Though with all such initiatives local designers should benefit, the impact could be national. Most clients are, after all, based outside London, but they can shop for design anywhere.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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