Juggle their jargon if you want to attract investors

Once clients were the target for ‘education’ about the benefits of good design. Now the financial community has shown itself to be lacking in conviction about the value of investing in the creative industries (see News, page 7).

Despite the facts promoted by the Design Council, the Greater London Authority and central Government, the money men and women have failed to grasp the significance of the creative sector and its potential for creating wealth, let alone the human benefits.

The report, sponsored by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, must have dealt a serious blow to those who have done sterling work in getting the design message across – often through direct intervention – to UK businesses. There is still some way to go with clients, particularly in persuading them to treat design consultancies as partners rather than suppliers, but channels are slowly opening.

Now, though, it looks like design needs to refocus its efforts, to take account of the very different culture of the financial world. So how do we do it?

Design bodies such as the Design Council and the Design Business Association will inevitably do their bit – and with the imminent launch of the council’s new agenda, we hope to see ideas there. But consultancies too can play their role.

The bigger branding groups started the ball rolling with clients when their audience shifted from corporate types to ‘customers’. They brought in people from the client side with experience in sectors they were focusing on. Maybe now they should ask the finance director how to treat potential investors.

We might also get into investors’ minds through initiatives like Design Does It, set up by the DBA with the Central Office of Information and the Design Council to promote effective use of design in the Civil Service.

More realistic in the short term though is to learn the investors’ language to initiate dialogue. One way is to attend investor conferences to understand the issues that concern them and their terminology. Perhaps then writers’ group 26 or similar should be commissioned to produce a witty ‘guide’ to terms for distribution within design, and perhaps an equally engaging ‘design manual’ to send to investors.

The good news is that some folk are already addressing the issue. For example, Staffordshire’s Different by Design, set up to boost local industry through design, is funding product designers to develop prototypes before seeking development cash – investors respond better to a physical object than a set of drawings.

It can be done, but it will take time. We just need to pool our ideas and go for it.

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