5 important things that happened in design this week

From shocking research revealing a drop in students studying creative subjects, to greater copyright protection for designers, we round up some of the key design events from the last seven days.

The UK voted to leave the EU

United Kingdom exit (brexit) answer YES checked

Yesterday marked a landmark point in the UK’s political history, as the public voted to leave the European Union, of which it has been a member for 43 years.

The decision could be damaging to the creative industries in several ways, according to creative business leaders: access to EU markets and exports, access to EU funding and grants for the arts, the ability to source creative talent from other countries, and possible exclusions from the EU single market which allows free movement of goods, services, capital and workers across countries. 

Some have suggested that removal from the EU could actually result in greater autonomy for the industry, with less “red tape” around regulation.

But the resounding opinion of designers and creative leaders is that leaving the EU will be harmful for the industry, with less access to talent and resources. Read more about how Brexit could affect the design industry here.

Exam applications revealed that less students are studying design


Some shocking and saddening data on exam entries was revealed this week, which showed that five times less GCSE students chose creative subjects in 2016, compared to 2015.

The trend coincides with the move to make EBacc subjects – English, maths, science, a language and a humanity – compulsory for study at GCSE, from this September onwards.

The figures from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) showed that 46,000 less GCSE students chose creative subjects in 2016, compared to 2015, and that design and technology was hit the hardest with 19,000 less students. A-Levels in creative subjects have also seen a dive, with 4,300 less takers in 2016 than the previous year.

Key creative industry figures, including Creative Industries Federation’s John Kampfner and Design Museum’s Dr Helen Charman, have criticised the push towards EBacc subjects, which they believe has resulted in the devaluing of the arts.

A petition against the move to make the EBacc compulsory has received a huge 100,000 signatures, and will be debated in parliament on 4 July.

Copyright law changed to protect (some) designers’ work for longer

Eames La Chaise chair, Charles & Ray Eames, 1948 Vitra Miniatures Collection. The Eames' chair collections are examples of designs that will be covered by the new copyright ruling.
Eames La Chaise chair, Charles & Ray Eames, 1948 Vitra Miniatures Collection.
The Eames’ chair collections are examples of designs that will be covered by the new copyright ruling.

After a change to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, designers’ work will now be protected for 70, rather than 25, years after they die…but only if their designs are “artistic” and “crafty” enough.

In order to qualify for this copyright, designs have to be proven to be Works of Artistic Craftsmanship (WOACs).

The UK Intellectual Property Office offers a vague definition for this term, which states that the piece in question should have required special training and skill to make, is a “work of art” and that the designer should have made a “conscious” decision to create said work of art – rather than accidentally designing a masterpiece, presumably.

Organisation Anti-Copying in Design suggests that all designers also register their designs, as not everyone will be able to rely on the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. The organisation will also be producing a set of guidelines to rival the UK IPO’s, with the hope of providing designers with more clarity.

Though not suitable for everyone, the copyright extension of 45 years is at least a step in the right direction for protecting ideas, and “places importance on original designs”, says ACID’s founder Dids Macdonald.

NASA revealed an electric airplane


NASA announced a concept plane this week which could change the way we travel the air in the future.

The X-57 will have 14 electric motors, with seven on each wing. 12 smaller ones will be used to power the plane for take-off and landing, while two bigger ones will be used for cruise control.

Both scarily and extraordinarily, the plane will be entirely powered by batteries, completely eliminating carbon emissions. Hopefully, it won’t need a recharge mid-long-haul flight.

Six concept X-57 planes will be produced, with the hope to mass-produce the plane commercially in the future.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden describes the prototype vehicle as the “first step in opening a new era of aviation”.

Cultural organisation Tate cleaned up its branding act


Before this week, Tate had an astounding 75 logo variations for different touchpoints, including incongruous visual identities for its four venues – Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives.

Consultancy North has purged Tate of its excessive branding, building on an existing dotted logo and bringing it to life with animations and stylishly abstract applications across everything from clothing to interior wallpaper.

North reduced the number of dots in the logo from 3,000 to 340, and stripped down the Tate Pro typeface from 15 weights to just two.

The refreshed – rather than entirely new – visual look has helped to unify the Tate brand, with the aim of making it less confusing and more accessible to a younger audience.

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