Be loud and proud -and break the silence

The party conferences over, it’s back to work for MPs and time to get the measure of the latest Government line-up. – We have yet to get to know the new design minister Ian Taylor.

The party conferences over, it’s back to work for MPs and time to get the measure of the latest Government line-up.

We have yet to get to know the new design minister Ian Taylor. He sounds amiable enough, and his stated interest in multi media is a plus. So there’s hope – as long as he remains in post long enough to make a mark.

One thing that has survived the last Cabinet reshuffle is the President of the Board of Trade’s intention to listen to only one voice from any industry. Incomer Ian Lang indicated as much before Parliament’s summer recess. But more than two years after his predecessor Michael Heseltine first demanded a single voice, design hasn’t found one.

Many look to the Design Council to fill the role. But how can a body on the Government’s payroll provide an objective view? And how can we in design rely on an organisation whose chief executive, Andrew Summers, refuses to condemn blatantly unethical moves such as the Department for Education and Employment’s scandalous free pitch (DW 18 August)?

The trade bodies? Domestic concerns and covert rivalry seemingly prevent the dignitaries of the Chartered Society of Designers and the Design Business Association from speaking out. Or have they simply nothing to say? Their opposite numbers at, say, the Confederation of British Industry, are quick to mount the platform, making headlines with their words. Design bodies meanwhile take a back seat, not even raising issues through letters to the press.

Be aloof when occasion demands, by all means, but be known before you take that stance. You’ve failed when (as often happens) the media asks “what’s that?” when a design body is named.

That great thinker Victor Papanek urges us to have no truck with self-serving trade associations. But we’d support any which spoke out fearlessly for design, gaining influence for everyone allied to the industry. We urge the industry’s grandees to raise their voices now, if only to explain the reason for their long silence.

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