Design Council’s gloom inspires industry repost

The Design Council’s gloomy predictions about the future of design have caused much controversy. Perhaps that was the aim.

The council’s estimation that we have only five years to fit ourselves for the future prompted D&AD chief executive Michael Hockney and education chairman Garrick Hamm (Letters, DW 13 July) to demonstrate that the programme is well underway, amid industry-wide mutterings that the council had got it wrong.

D&AD’s case is valid, given the portfolio of education and professional development training it offers. It is seen as elitist and veering towards advertising, but it isn’t the only body working to build a brighter future. The Design Business Association offers superb business development training. Peta Levi’s Eureka project and the Royal College of Art are also among the activists.

One good outcome of the Design Council rant is that it is provoking debate. Sadly, D&AD felt aggrieved enough to write in to Design Week, but at least it has contributed and we hope other bodies will break their silence and do the same.

If the Design Council has a point, it is that there is no concerted effort to shape design for the future. Those who remember the Halifax Initiative of the mid-1990s will recall a bid to give the industry one voice to address the world outside. This still hasn’t happened.

The Design Council is not the organisation to represent the industry, nor is the Skills Council. Both are government-backed facilitators and campaigners. It needs the grass roots of design to take the advice and assistance on board and tailor it to its needs.

Last year’s Cox Review needs the buy-in of others in the industry to make it real – and that is taking time. Perhaps the council should push its role as catalyst and embrace design directly – replacing former design director Richard Eisermann could be a start. Without a direct link with the industry, its pronouncements will continue to be dismissed as irrelevant by designers at large.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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