Design needs a platform to break into mainstream

It is great to hear that a Museum of Brand Packaging and Advertising is due to open in London’s Notting Hill in December.

The venture marks a triumph for the museum’s initiator, packaging king Robert Opie, whose previous museum at Gloucester Docks was sadly forced to close a few years ago. It also gives design a prominent public showcase and highlights branding, a subject honoured by Design Week’s recent Benchmarks awards, but largely unsung outside professional circles.

With luck, the museum will attract a broad range of visitors, particularly schools, and will not just be a clutch of design stalwarts and college students. Opie’s Gloucester collection, with its nostalgic Five Boys chocolate wrappers, Brasso and Bisto tins and so on, was second only to a visit to eclectic artist Sir Peter Blake’s studio, in my experience, and a must for lovers of collections.

But the euphoria induced by the new museum pales slightly when you consider how small a part it is likely to play in promoting design to a wide audience. Compare it with Channel 4’s excellent coverage of architecture’s prestigious Stirling Prize on Saturday evening, won by the Scottish Parliament, and you realise how far we have to go to get the message into the open.

Design has made it on to TV on a number of memorable occasions and the Design Business Association still harbours strong hopes of getting its International Design Effectiveness Awards broadcast next year.

But design tends to be relegated to business slots, rather than aired at prime times, like the Stirling Prize, which sported a ‘popular’ presenter in Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud, rather than a designer with guts.

It is good that the business argument behind design has been so well communicated that broadcasters have picked it up. But what of the delight that all of us can appreciate? If architecture can strike a chord, then surely so can design. It is, after all, all around us.

Lynda Relph-knight, Editor

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