DBA/Design Council must shake things up

I read with interest the story about the Design Business Association and Design Council alliance (DW 7 April). It’s good news that 2500 design professionals have been asked about issues facing the industry.

I read with interest the story about the Design Business Association and Design Council alliance (DW 7 April). It’s good news that 2500 design professionals have been asked about issues facing the industry.

But surely we already know the answers? Just reading the letters in DW recently you have Simon Barbato of Communiqué 360 talking about the need for an industry-wide body that will raise standards, claiming that we are currently no better than estate agents. Prior to that David Lightman of SiebertHead despaired of the industry’s inability to make a stand on free-pitching.

My partner Jon Alport and I have, between us, worked in the design for some 30 years and we can honestly say it is in serious need of attention.

We are not alone in our observations. It is commonly thought that designers work in an industry where there are too many players in the market, there is no real commitment to personal development, little strategic succession planning, and margins are being eroded, threatening profitability.

The industry is served by a variety of well meaning ‘paper tigers’ who lack the teeth needed to make a difference. This, alongside complacency and an unhealthy degree of arrogance, does design no favours. From a talent point of view many people are overpriced and under skilled. Human resources in particular get paid lip-service, with limited career counselling and mentoring even in the biggest consultancies. Add a general lack of business maturity that makes consultancies reactive rather than proactive and the problems are self-evident.

Now is the time for better industry standards, especially from an HR viewpoint, as the future lies in the hands of those who are joining the industry or those who already work in your studio. Let’s hope that the survey results will act as a springboard for genuine change rather than more chin stroking and prevarication – it’s time we raised our game.

Nick Hawkins, Partner, Alport, Essex CB11 4NL

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