It is great to see the overwhelming support from regional networks for UK Design Alliance (see Letters, page 11 and DW 10 February). Never, in more than 20 years in the business, have I witnessed such a groundswell of opinion in favour of a coherent voice for design and I am delighted to stand corrected for my earlier failure to acknowledge it (Comment, DW 3 February).
The joy is that the response is coming from the grassroots of the industry, rather than being dictated by national organisations. Past bids to unite the industry – notably the Halifax Initiative of the mid-1990s – floundered partly because national bodies couldn’t set aside their own interests – or rather those of their members – for the greater good. We are therefore left with what appears from the outside a small, but fragmented industry with no obvious point of contact and little common ground. The UKDA is an important first step in remedying that. Comprising a host of local membership bodies, it reflects regional diversity in a positive way, including consultancies and sole traders across disciplines. It could provide a means of delivering skills training across design, but it could go much further. Some national membership bodies are keen to link into the alliance, not to dominate proceedings, but to lend influence and resources where appropriate. This is the element that has been missing to date and can only add clout to the burgeoning organisation.
We have the Design Council to thank for instigating and supporting the UKDA thus far. But perhaps now, as its remit changes and it merges with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, it is time for the council to step down and leave the networks to govern the alliance themselves. UKDA chairman David Worthington is in favour of self-government.
As a representative body in design, the alliance should surely take its cue from its members rather than a Government-backed organisation.