Consultation must start with some engagement

I feel I must put the record straight regarding Emily Campbell’s assertions (DW 6 August) that she ‘consulted’ with the Faculty of Royal Designers on her Design & Society manifesto/pamphlet.

To use the words of former Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, Campbell is being ‘economical with the truth’.

When Campbell joined the Royal Society of Arts last year she attended a Royal Designers for Industry executive meeting to meet and get to know us, as she was to become the faculty secretary.

She soon rounded on the gathered company to deliver a personal and ill-informed critique of the RDIs, much to the astonishment of those present – all of whom, with the exception of me, kept their composure.

She repeated her views to a larger gathering of RDIs, and then attended a reunion of the alumni of seven RDI summer schools, where she spoilt the atmosphere with another personal dismantling of the school and its philosophy, within earshot of those who had been responsible for creating it, without ever having experienced one herself. She said it sounded like a load of designers just navel-gazing, and we’d all be better off going to Wales to re-roof dilapidated cottages.
I have discovered to my own cost that knee-jerk reactions, without bothering to fully understand the circumstances, can backfire.

I am part of a fantastic body of individuals immersed in wisdom, experience and supreme talent, but Campbell most certainly didn’t bother to take advantage of the talent that was right under her nose.

It is against this backdrop that Campbell pushed her own agenda as the RSA’s official view of the role of the designer in society. None of her utterances to the RDIs constituted a ‘consultation’, neither did e-mailing a questionnaire to a random selection of members.

It is a lamentable state of affairs when the RSA’s ‘head of design’ seems incapable of engaging with its own RDIs.
Mike Dempsey, Royal Designer for Industry, Studio Dempsey, by e-mail

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