Beda appointment should bring opportunities in Europe

There’s been an interesting shift in focus for UK design in recent years, from the local to the global. Most groups in, say, the Design Week Top 100 have dabbled in Dubai, China, Russia or India of late, largely because their multinational clients demand it.

It’s not that long ago though that continental Europe was a major goal for UK consultancies bent on expansion, with Scandinavia as a destination for some. Those in practice in the early 1990s will recall the much-used phrase ‘pan-European’, applied to branding and packaging that crossed national borders.

To achieve it was considered a high spot for consultancies of all sizes and the Pan-European Brand Design Association was in the ascendancy among UK groups seeking to tout their wares in Europe or to forge alliances with their Continental counterparts. FutureBrand, among others, benefited hugely from this spirit of collaboration.

Now the Far East carries the cachet, but with recession hitting international markets as well as the UK and increasing concerns about carbon footprints, the attention could well turn to markets nearer home. Certainly, some have already withdrawn from fickle countries like Russia.

It is timely, then, for the Design Business Association chief executive to become vice-president of the Bureau of European Design Associations (, 16 March). UK trade bodies for design have always had considerable clout across the channel, but Deborah Dawton’s increasing activity there can only create opportunities for our community.

It is interesting too that the Design Council has been accepted into Beda membership. Outgoing president Michael Thomson of Design Connect has achieved amazing things during his two-year tenure, opening the hearts and minds of the European Commission to design.

That programme is ongoing, hopefully with Thomson still involved, but the Design Council participation in Beda events should broaden its outlook on the public-sector markets it is seeking to unlock. It is good news all round.

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