Prepare yourselves for an accreditation revival

Remember BS5750? A so-called quality standard that proved to be a potential money-spinner for accreditation houses, it was a way of setting up checking systems. Who in a consultancy signed off what and when – and so on. It had nothing to do with quality of work being signed off, nor did it guarantee creativity.

Its few supporters in design decreed that without BS5750 accreditation, it would be impossible to get work from Government or similar agencies – with or without a free pitch. Its opponents railed that such a device is no way to measure competence in design. The result? Furore.

Such standards still exist – and have a useful place in industries concerned solely with production. Designers meanwhile continue largely unchecked, except by clients who buy what they deem good, discarding the rest.

Accreditation is set to become an issue again – and soon. However lacking the Government-backed Business Links have so far proved in delivering design, they do exist and should be exploited by designers as a conduit for influencing UK companies and winning work.

But how do we ensure the Business Link counsellors identify the right design group for the job? The bureaucrats’ answer is inevitably some kind of database, but the demise of the Government’s ill-conceived Consultancy Brokerage Service has stalled that one for the moment.

Now the Chartered Society of Designers and the Design Business Association plan another roster to serve the Links and any other comers. But will this be any better than what has gone before? The CSD vets would-be members, but isn’t keen to chuck folk out, however much they flout the ethical code; the DBA meanwhile appears to assess applicants largely on their ability to pay the membership fee.

No wonder clients stick to consultancies they’ve used before or cite word-of-mouth as a preferred recommendation. The best alternative is probably the local Yellow Pages. But is there a way of compiling an “approved list” that doesn’t mean listees have also to join a design body? Any suggestions?

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