It is interesting that Michel Roset should describe Parisian designer Eric Jourdan as ‘a bit English’ because of his modesty and introspection.
As creative director of French furniture manufacturer Ligne Roset, Roset has worked with designers from across the globe and will have a sense of national differences. That he has picked up these self-effacing traits as essentially English isn’t altogether good, though his stance supports a concern that UK designers generally don’t exude the confidence that befits their talent.
Of course, we have our moments of flamboyance and characters as large and lively as, say, Richard Seymour, Simon Waterfall and Ross Lovegrove. That character generally shows in outstanding work. But there aren’t many designers, however good or prolific, who are prepared to trumpet their worth on a scale you might expect from their counterparts in adland, though they arguably do a more complex job.
This reticence traditionally leads to lower fees and less respect among clients for design groups than for ad agencies or marketing consultants. Yet design has the facility to do more for the client’s bottom line, as well as to improve products and services.
This is not a new position, but exasperating nonetheless. We can only hope that initiatives such as Scotland’s Six Cities venture, the Designs of the Time programme currently running in the North East and next month’s London Design Festival can change public perceptions of UK design, while years of political lobbying pay off slowly as the Government pins more of its hopes on design.
But for all these campaigns, things will remain the same unless designers buy into the idea that what they do can be vital to the UK economy, enhance lives and add joy to the experience.
It’s no good blaming outside forces for a situation we in design have been content to endure. It’s down to everyone in the design trade – consultancies, colleges and industry bodies – to change that culture.
LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR