5 important things that happened in design this week

From a new Royal Mail stamp series celebrating the UK’s toy design heritage, to WPP’s acquisition of independent consultancy Design Bridge, we round up the design news from the last seven days.

Design Bridge was bought by WPP

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP. Photo by Phil Adams

Brand consultancy Design Bridge became the latest independent design business to be acquired by advertising giant WPP this week.

The consultancy has been independent since it was founded in 1986 and is still run by the majority of its original management team.

It joins a number of other design studios that are part of the wider WPP group, including Brand Union, The Partners, Fitch, Coley Porter Bell, Landor and Lambie Nairn.

Speaking to Design Week, Design Bridge highlighted that the sale of the business does not mean it will compromise its creative independence, and it will operate as a fully autonomous business within WPP.

“It’s a big change having been privately owned for so long, but actually the only thing that changes is the ownership, everything else remains the same,” said Design Bridge group marketing director Birgitte Woehlk.

The consultancy will continue to be run by the same management team, as well as remaining in its existing London headquarters.

Design Bridge also announced it will be opening an office in Shanghai, and cited WPP’s “local knowledge” and “financial power” as the necessary qualities to make this expansion a reality, Woehlk added.

Design Manchester revealed its programme for 2017

The Design Weekender at Design Manchester

Now in its fifth iteration, the line-up for this year’s Design Manchester was announced this week.

The design festival’s 2017 programme will include talks, exhibitions, workshops, fairs and film screenings at a number of venues across Manchester over 11 days this October.

Highlights include the DM17 conference, which will be hosted by Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne and feature talks from the likes of Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani and illustrator Emily Forgot, with more names set to be revealed in the coming weeks.

There will also be an exhibition looking at designer Malcolm Garrett’s work for Manchester punk band Buzzcocks, and another on football design and the crests of Premier League football clubs, coinciding with the competition’s 25th birthday this year.

Several other regular features are also set to return, including The Design City Weekender and the DM17 on Screen film festival.

Design Manchester 2017 takes place 11-22 October across various venues in Manchester. Some events are free and some are ticketed. Earlybird tickets to the DM17 conference cost £35, and £45 for full-price. For more info, head to the Design Manchester 2017 website.

Read our coverage of last year’s festival here.

We examined whether university is the best route for budding designers

In his latest column for Design Week, freelance designer Ben Tallon looked at the pros and cons of university education for young people looking to get into the design industry.

The figures for this year’s A-level cohort show that university applications for creative art and design subjects dropped by 5% compared to 2016. Following the announcement of A-level results last month, it also emerged that the number of students being accepted onto art and design courses has also dropped by 3%, decreasing from 45,650 in 2016 to 44,110 this year.

This shift can arguably be put down to rising tuition fees that are now as high as £9,000-per-year, deterring budding designers who don’t want to be saddled with debt.

In his column Tallon debated whether the higher education system has become a “dusty old thing”, and suggested that risings costs are causing students to view themselves as “customer paying a lofty fee”, meaning that they “entitled to constant guidance throughout” the course.

“It is necessary to have access to tutor support, but without the freedom to think independently, explore ideas and develop on your own terms, university does not equip students for an industry that is constantly changing,” said Tallon.

He also highlighted the emergence of alternative education routes, including D&AD’s 12-week night school programme Shift, and Creative Review’s Mastering Creativity course.

Read Tallon’s Freelance State of Mind columns here.

Royal Mail celebrated British toy design with a new set of stamps

Royal Mail unveiled its latest stamp collection this week, which highlights 10 of the most famous British toy designs from the last 100 years, ranging from the Space Hopper to the Spirograph.

The Classic Toys collection has been designed by London-based consultancy Interabang, who sourced all of the toys and their original packaging from private collectors and sites such as eBay.

The design of each of the stamps was informed by their packaging and other accompanying materials, and looks to capture “the essence of the world of the toy”, said Interabang director Adam Giles.

Take the Action Man stamp, for instance, which features an illustration of a parachutist from its original instruction manual.

Other stamps marry the original designs with new, subtle features, to create a “digital collage” effect, said Giles. The Spirograph stamp matches the stencil pattern seen on the toy’s original box, but has been recreated using the game itself and then photographed, while StickleBricks’ logo uses photos of individual pieces as the “i’s” in its name.

Interabang also designed a first day cover and presentation pack to go with the stamp series, which take inspiration from “visually rich” vintage toy catalogues, Giles added.

The Classic Toys stamp set and associated products are available from Royal Mail’s website and Post Offices across the UK.

We revealed the first pictures of the V&A-backed museum in China

Construction Site of Sea World Culture and Arts Center (photo taken in June,2017) ©Design Society

The first images of Chinese cultural and design hub Design Society were unveiled this week, which is set to include the Victoria and Albert’s first outpost in Asia.

Due to open in December, the Shenzhen-based museum will be part of a wider cultural complex called The Sea World Culture and Arts Center, and has been designed by Japanese architectural practice Maki and Associates.

The V&A Gallery will be the first collaboration of its kind between a UK museum and a Chinese partner, and has been designed by London-based architectural practice Sam Jacob Studio.

Details of the V&A gallery’s inaugural exhibition Values of Design have also been revealed.

It will showcase more than 250 products, furniture and graphic design pieces from 31 countries that are part of the museum’s permanent collection, spanning from 900 AD to the present day.

Design Society opens at The Sea World Culture and Arts Center, Shenzhen, China on 2 December 2017.

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