Fitch’s professorship in retail design is a stroke of genius

You have to hand it to Rodney Fitch. Like so many of the founding fathers of UK design, he is forever resourceful, as his latest educational venture demonstrates.

The plan he has hatched with Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is a masterstroke. To elevate retail design to merit a professorship at an established university gives it credibility befitting the modern age. The modular course brings context and innovation to a complex discipline more normally lodged within interiors schools.

But the real coup is surely Delft’s partnership with Indian organisation Kyoorius to offer a professional retail qualification in Mumbai. What better way to comprehend a living subject like retailing than as a practitioner – and what better way to understand new retail markets than to immerse yourself in one.

For Fitch – as for TV’s self-styled retail queen Mary Portas, whose next series promises to go beyond fashion and charity shops into everyday commodities – retail design is as much an instinct as a science, honed by years of experience. For this to be conveyed to MA students in a design school can only be to the good. All credit is due to Delft for recognising the opportunities Fitch’s involvement can bring.

It is a huge pity that a UK college wasn’t first to pick up the notion, given Fitch’s long-term involvement with the University of the Arts London. It will be especially galling to the Design Council at a time when its Government paymasters are backing skills training in design as a key to Britain’s future prosperity to see such a venture launching elsewhere. With colleges expecting another wave of stringent Government cuts they need clever ideas to boost their relevance to students and commercial backers.

We wish Fitch well in his endeavours as he completes his gardening leave with WPP. The venture with Delft could foretell a new model for design education that puts specialism where it should be in colleges – at the tail end of the process.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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