What better choice than John Mathers to be the next Design Business Association president (see News, page 3). With considerable experience in the business, he is well-poised to build on the sterling work outgoing president Paul Priestman has done over the past two years in shaking up the DBA and laying the foundations of the new-look association.
And while Priestman spoke personally for the entrepreneurial consultancy founder and product design, Mathers flies the flag for the bigger groups. Senior management roles at Fitch and Enterprise IG have armed him with a perspective not common to many DBA members. Meanwhile, his earlier stint on the client side as design head at Safeway could prove invaluable.
Mathers inherits a strong management team, Priestman’s tour de force being the appointment of Deborah Dawton and Anthony Simonds-Gooding, as chief executive and non-executive chairman respectively, during his two-year tenure. Simonds-Gooding’s connections have in turn aligned the DBA more closely with the Design Council and British Design & Art Direction. These moves earned Priestman a place in Design Week’s first Hot 50 (DW 25 September).
But the challenges Mathers faces are just as strong as those his predecessor has dealt with so admirably. Working with Dawton, he needs to rebuild the association’s public persona – a ‘quiet’ period invariably follows changes as radical as those Priestman instigated, as has happened at the Design Council and British Design & Art Direction since they found new chief executives earlier in the year.
They need to build on the offer to existing members – something Dawton is already looking at – as well as add to the numbers to give the association critical mass and income. What better places to trawl for these than from Mathers’ heartland among the bigger consultancies and in-house creative teams within client companies. We wish him well.
Recognise our future talent
It is a little known fact that this week 400 of the great and the good descended on Buckingham Palace to be be honoured as Pioneers of the Nation. Good news for design is that some of our number were among them – Terence Conran, James Dyson, former Pentagram partner Kenneth Grange and fashion and textiles designer Zandra Rhodes among them.
These people continue to show their worth. But how much more of a celebration it might have been if there had been a few younger creatives present. How much better too if the palace did more to broadcast the contribution of the nation’s achievers more publicly.