University design consultancies – a virtuous circle?

The suggestions that design-hungry clients are turning to universities to get design work on the cheap, that they are naive about design, or that the service which universities provides is somehow sub-standard do a massive disservice to the authors of your Debate piece (News, DW 11 September), to universities and to our many clients.

Clients come to Central St Martins Innovation, and to our in-house consultancy, the Design Laboratory, because they have the opportunity to work with world-leading design academics and researchers, and the best, brightest, and most innovative design students and graduates anywhere.

What we provide is a world away from ‘design-lite’, as suggested by your article.

Your readers should not be fooled into thinking universities are a cheap option, or that they are bent on undercutting design consultancies.

CSM Innovation is run as a business and it has all the stresses, strains and financial imperatives of a business.

We do not cut corners or rates. The bottom line is as important to us as it is to your readers.

Central St Martins is part of University of the Arts London, which, like many universities, has to find alternative revenue to maintain teaching standards.

Nurturing the talent of tomorrow takes money, and this is one way in which we generate funds.

University-based consultancy is important in the development of the design industry. We give students real client contact, regularly sub-contract work to graduates who are practising designers, and provide paid internships and junior designer roles.

Students learn what industry needs, the client gets fresh ideas, and the design industry gets more work. A perfect, virtuous circle.Dani Salvadori, Head of enterprise and innovation,

Central St Martins College of Art and Design, by e-mail

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  • Jonathan Butters November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Universities should not be offering design consultancy and competing with their industry full stop! There is no virtue at all. Also, Dani would be better advised presenting her own enterprise rather than attempting to defend the actions of universities in general. I have no evidence of good or bad practice by CSM’s Design Laboratory yet. However, there are numerous cases of UK universities behaving in a way that is detrimental to the industry they should be supporting. How can there be the exact same financial pressures within public sector or HE initiatives like CSM’s? Whose mortgage and personal capital is on the line? I very much doubt if the real industrial experience their participants get is much like working in a manufacturer’s in-house office or in a commercial consultancy. I spent the last 10 years training an employing students and graduates in my previous company with no thanks or real support from their universities. Now I am having to compete with the universities for work. What an insult! As Dani says, it’s all about making money. Are there any design businesses out there that want to start a university and raise public finance to subsidise their design work?

  • Louis della-Porta November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “CSM Innovation is run as a business and it has all the stresses, strains and financial imperatives of a business.”

    But not comparable to the stresses and strains of design consultancies in the private sector; raising commerical finance, paying commercial rents, with no access to public funding from University, UK government nor European funds. Not exactly a level playing field.

  • Charlotte Corke November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I find the tone of Dani Salvadori’s letter highly insulting.
    The nub of the protest growing in the product design sector is about unfair competition funded by public money.
    CSM Innovation may be “run as a business”, but I bet Dani’s house isn’t on the line if things get tough.

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