Design steps out of the bath but still makes waves

It’s hard to know what 2004 will best be remembered for in design. It’s been a good or bad year, depending who you ask, the common link being that everyone on the consultancy side had their head down in a bid to win work. But the world nonetheless kept turning.

It was the year in which George Bush’s re-election as US president ensured a continuing gung-ho approach to international relations. But the creative industries still just about managed to get out of Martin Sorrell’s metaphorical bath as the WPP boss had predicted and most design groups appear optimistic and ready for the ‘shower’ he promises for 2005.

It’s been a year of inward and outward missions, notably from and to the Far East, and overseas deals with Russia and other new markets bringing projects for a few in the UK. China is meanwhile opening out as a short-term opportunity for many – before it gets its own creative act together, as undoubtedly it will.

On the home front, design won recognition from the royals, when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh hosted an elegant evening at Buckingham Palace for at least 500 of the creative industries’ finest. But the wider world was drawn by the first D&AD Congress and the ever- expanding design perennial 100% Design.

There were surprises. It was, for example, the year in which UK design great Terence Conran got his hands on US retail bastion Gap, with help from incoming retail design director David Chaloner. And ‘young’ London group Hat Trick Design beat an illustrious field to redesign the Natural History Museum identity.

Then there were those stamps. Johnson Banks scooped Best of Show in the Design Week Awards and a coveted D&AD Gold. Meanwhile, United Biscuits shocked the industry by withdrawing its McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes packs by Williams Murray Hamm, even though they won the Grand Prix in Design Business Association’s International Design Effectiveness Awards for boosting Jaffa Cakes’ sales.

Promising developments that are yet to reach fruition include Peter Saville’s appointment as design guru for Manchester, another plan for Battersea Power Station and the refurbishment of the Dome (see News Analysis, page 10). Priestman Goode’s Yotel! meanwhile looks set to change the way we view business hotels.

And the downside? One of the lowest points has to be the Design Museum debacle and James Dyson’s famous flounce. It is such a shame when one of our senior players grabs media attention through a localised spat rather than by doing great things.

Let’s hope 2005 will be a good year, unmarred by further evidence of the latter. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

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