Designers need to follow Fitch and show the world what they can really do

Those who know Rodney Fitch won’t be surprised at his renaissance since he finally resigned from the consultancy Fitch late last year. Such is his drive and resourcefulness.

When it emerged in February that he had taken up a professorship at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to set up retail courses in Delft and Mumbai (DW 17 February), it was clear that more was to come. Now, just a couple of weeks since he completed his contract with WPP-owned Fitch, we know about some of his new ventures, with others in the offing.

In many ways, Fitch is typical of design’s elder statesmen. An industry pioneer, he has survived many a downturn and instigated several new ventures. He has this in common with the likes of Terence Conran, Michael Wolff, Michael Peters and Martin Lambie-Nairn, and, like some of them, has lent his experience to education and cultural institutions such as the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The difference is that, with the exception of Conran, most of Fitch’s peers have continued on purely in design, setting up new consultancies along the way or joining existing ones. Fitch has now opted for a ’portfolio’ career to make good use of the skills he has acquired over the years in areas of particular interest to him. Surprisingly, there isn’t a role in cricket or opera there – yet.

When Fitch and his contemporaries started out, design was a very simple business, based invariably on the creative output of its players. It was project-based and client relationships were very personal. The business has changed beyond recognition since then, but the entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

It would be great to see other experienced design players stepping away from the obvious consultancy path. Respect for design can only grow when a wider audience sees what designers are really capable of.

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