The premature departure of Richard Eisermann from the Design Council raises questions about the direction the council might take. It is interesting that he will not be replaced in the short term, though his contract had a few more months to run.
As Director of Design & Innovation, Eisermann has headed the council’s campaigning activities, bringing design to business and schools and fostering design skills throughout the industry. The findings of the Cox Review ratify more of the same for the organisation, so there is a need for continuity.
But, with council chairman Sir George Cox having won over Chancellor Gordon Brown, who commissioned the review, perhaps the need to ‘campaign’ is less urgent. The role might more usefully focus on diplomacy as the council seeks to broker deals with other organisations to get its pilot projects out there.
But it must be a designer – or designers – who takes up the baton. The council needs that particular mindset at its heart, for, though its chief executive David Kester is undoubtedly creative and its non-designer director Hilary Cottam caused controversy when she was named as the Design Museum’s 2005 Designer of the Year, it needs someone with first-hand experience of the design process, not least to interpret the often unwieldy Design Council- speak to designers involved in its programmes.
Eisermann is the third product designer to fill the design director’s role, with Sean Blair and Clive Grinyer serving before him. The remit of each has been slightly different: Blair was concerned with familiarising UK business with design, while Grinyer played a bigger role in getting it embedded in business practice, pioneering the Design Immersion programme that is now central to its activities.
It won’t necessarily need a product designer to take it to the next stage. But it should be someone who understands both the design industry and client concerns, if the council is to bridge the gap between the two more effectively.
Lynda Relph-Knight, editor