In many ways 2001 is a year best forgotten. The digital downturn, the foot-and-mouth crisis, the events of 11 September and subsequent international war have all taken their toll on the morale and fortunes of the creative industries.
In true spirit though, most in design look forward to the New Year with a degree of optimism. We’re over the shock and ready to move on. But before we do, a glance back to events in design may foretell its future.
The year started with the dreadful news that design had lost one of its key players, Marcello Minale, killed in the final days of 2000. We still mourn his loss and feel for his family as the anniversary of his death approaches. Minale was among those of his generation who upheld high creative and ethical standards in design, and while business life has changed dramatically since his heyday, those principles are still valid and are being taken forward by others.
Later in the year we also lost John Gillard, that great, but modest champion of ‘creative’ education. Again, that loss was great, but Gillard’s spirit lives on in others, particularly within British Design & Art Direction and the Design Council. That Royal College of Art rector and Design Council chairman Professor Christopher Frayling should receive a knighthood for services to education in the 2001 New Year’s Honours is fitting tribute to his unstinting efforts, while his Design Council predecessor John Sorrell is tackling broader education issues through the charitable The Sorrell Foundation, founded with his wife Frances.
Many people lost their jobs this year, but the biggest collapse was of digital design giant Deepend. It was shocking to see one of the last great independents go, but the industry hasn’t lost all of its talented staff and already new groups have risen from the ashes. Meanwhile, following Deepend’s demise and the sale of Wolff Olins to US megagroup Omnicom, the independents are rallying round, hopefully as a vocal counterbalance to the big global groups.
For all the knocks, 2001 has had its celebrations too. We congratulate Sir Terence Conran on reaching 70 without the slightest hint that his commitment to design and seminal entrepreneurialism will diminish. It was good also to see Pentagram co-founder Kenneth Grange scoop the Prince Philip Designers Prize, with Thomas Heatherwick shortlisted as testament of younger generations in design.
With interest in creativity, education, effective business and entrepreneurialism undimmed by events, the long-term future doesn’t look so bad for design. Have a great Christmas and come back refreshed to make it a memorable New Year.