Take inspiration to fuel industry-wide optimism

It’s always intriguing to ask top creatives to name the best design over a 12-month period (see Vox Pop, page 13). The fascinating thing is how many designers find inspiration outside the confines of their own discipline.

Take Brian Webb, whose choice, Norman Foster’s Swiss Re building in the City of London, is not just a prominent addition to the capital’s skyline, but marks a shift in his life. When Trickett & Webb closed its doors earlier this year, he set up Webb & Webb at Perseverance Works in the East End. The sight through the studio window of sun on the so-called Gherkin building was a factor that clinched the decision for him. So to this distinguished graphic designer architecture has presented the most powerful image.

It shows that a blinkered view isn’t the best way to achieve great work. Life’s influences are broader than the average college course or client brief might allow and the designer filters those influences to create ideas.

Our Vox Pop pundits present personal choices. Industry-wide, though, there have been important shifts that could shape design in the future as many practitioners start to feel optimism return after a tough couple of years.

On the consultancy side, Rodney Fitch’s return to Fitch Worldwide – a masterstroke by WPP Group boss Martin Sorrell – has had a positive effect far beyond the global consultancy’s West London office. Apart from giving Fitch the leadership it needs, the appointment marks a welcome return of personality to design. Rodney is a larger than life character, and it would be good to see more of his ilk surface in 2004, a year tipped by Sorrell to see global recovery.

Meanwhile, changes in the line-up at the main industry bodies bode well for the future. David Kester’s shift from British Design & Art Direction to chief executive of the Design Council, Michael Hockney’s move into his former role at D&AD and Deborah Dawton’s appointment as chief executive of the Design Business Association all bring new life – and scope for closer collaboration – to the organisations.

Hockney and Dawton have shown their cards. But we eagerly await news of Kester’s plan for the Design Council, which promises to be radical.

In terms of design promotion, the London Design Festival kicked off in the autumn to a mixed response. Its central focus, the World Creative Forum, needs work to achieve its key objectives, but it was only the first year of an adventurous project. Now we also have the D&AD Congress to look forward to in the spring.

As 2003 ends, signs of recovery are there and optimism is returning. We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

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