New chance for DBA to raise design profile

We have to wait until the end of the month to hear exactly what vision has emerged for the Design Business Association. But it is encouraging that it will have effectiveness at its core.

We have to wait until the end of the month to hear exactly what vision has emerged for the Design Business Association (see News, page 4). But it is encouraging that it will have effectiveness at its core.

The DBA Design Effectiveness Awards have continued to grow in stature over the past ten years, especially with clients. That is no mean feat, but the organisers have yet to convince many designers deemed to be in the top creative league of their value. In an ideal world effectiveness prize winners should mirror the results of schemes such as the Design Week Awards that are based on creative excellence. It can be done, as projects such as Design Acumen’s first class seat for British Airways prove, but it’s still quite rare.

Incoming DBA chairman Lynne Dobney recognises that creative excellence is as important to effectiveness as enhancing the client’s bottom line. Consistent wins by her consultancy, Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, in both types of award bears that out. But she and the DBA board have their work cut out in pushing the point to effectiveness awards participants.

But Dobney and outgoing chairman Colin Porter both talk of effectiveness in its broadest sense, and we expect to see elements of this in the DBA’s new vision. Much of what we’re likely to hear at the agm will build on initiatives spawned by previous DBA activists. Though he shies away from praise, Elmwood director Jonathan Sands laid the foundations during his stint as DBA chairman, particularly in encouraging collaboration between the key design bodies through Design Unity. Porter and his team have tried to inject a bit of soul into the association – through the Design for Good initiative largely – and intellect, through the quarterly Design Debates addressing the impact social and business shifts will have on design.

Dobney looks set to put an international spin on things by tapping into design networks abroad. She also hints at positioning the DBA in the more actively campaigning role the industry so badly needs by strengthening links with Government and client organisations.

Two years isn’t long to achieve such goals, given that most DBA board members also have their own businesses to run, but the will is there to succeed. Much will depend on the calibre of the board members elected at the agm later this month and how that team works together. There’s a real chance here to show the world that an identity shift goes deeper than a change of visual image. Let’s hope Dobney and co take it.

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