Seymour Powell certainly knows how to court publicity. Apart from starring in one of the best TV mini-series on design to hit our screens – Channel 4’s Designs On Your… trilogy – the London consultancy was basking in the limelight of media attention even before the series started.
News of the first programme, a witty, but informative rethink of bra design, won over the national press as we were just warming up to the World Cup. The result? Massive preview coverage. Last night’s follow-up, Designs On Your Loo, had the chance to be an even bigger pull, its prime-time slot falling on a fallow night for football as the quarter-finalists prepare for the next round.
There’s great entertainment in the TV antics of Richard Seymour and Dick Powell. There has to be to pull the punters and get the message across to viewers not versed in the mysteries of design. But two key points are made nonetheless: design is as much about science and technology as it is an applied art; and the designer has an invaluable part to play in a project team as champion of the consumer, not least for his or her passion to push things further, even when the first idea goes pear-shaped.
It’s not the first time the product design duo have graced our screens. They are immensely watchable, and it is good news for design that Seymour in particular, as British Design and Art Direction president-elect, has such a high media profile. For once we’ll have an industry leader whose charisma reaches beyond the confines of design.
But it’s always product or fashion design that captures the imagination of the TV producers. It’s sexy stuff relating to the aspirational side of everyday life. Design is thus portrayed as a rather glamourous pursuit, making life tough for school careers officers across the land.
Communications and branding design – the mainstays of design as we in the industry know it – appear to have less viewer appeal. This is largely the stuff of business programmes (if we’re lucky), which lack the personality of the Seymour Powell shows. Yet design can have greater influence in these areas, given its potential impact in shaping client companies, enabling them to compete more effectively and giving consumers a better choice. Design can also field a few larger-than-life characters in these areas to strut their stuff effectively.
We hope the Design Council – sponsor of the Designs On Your… series – will push for an equally lively sequel looking at these issues. With Seymour’s graphics background and D&AD role, the producer could even cash in on his box office pull and make him presenter.