Government fails the designers once again

Oh dear. Here we go with another complaint over Government dealings with design. The Consultancy Brokerage Service has already provoked anger, particularly from product designers who have tried to push the cause of British design within British industry for so long (see News, page 3).

On the face of it, the concern is about cash. The more you say about yourself to prospective clients under the CBS, the more it costs you on a complex scale of charges. But winning work always has a price and there are other things at stake here.

First, there’s the question of the “consultants” you employ and the extra charge for each you name. What does it mean? No explanation is given, but perhaps it makes more sense to other disciplines covered by the CBS, such as PR and management consultancy.

Then there’s the nature of the work on offer. There’s no guarantee you’ll get any – no new-business scheme can promise that. But as the CBS register will be used by the Business Links, the odds are it’ll be small jobs from companies new to design that take resources beyond the scope of the fee to service. And who is going to make the recommendations? We still have no word about the Links’ ability to deliver design, other than unofficial reports that help has been shunned from the design bodies.

If such reports are true, the CBS is an insult – in that to join, consultancies must pay for a “quality audit” to establish credibility, whether or not they’ve been vetted for professionalism to join the various professional bodies. No clues yet as to who will carry out this extra check.

The lack of Government understanding about design engendered in the CBS points up the enormity of the task still facing the Design Council. Judging by the recent spate of trade missions abroad involving designers, Government has latched on to design’s value as an export. But when will it grasp its potential for revitalising British industry and make it easier for that process to begin, without adding another layer of unfocused bureaucracy?

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