It’s high time design made headline news

Design might just scrape a mention in the broadsheets this week. The reason? The goldfish saga. Addison’s challenge to British Gas and friends over the use of the Goldfish marque might have been settled out of court, but it could still merit a couple of lines in the business pages.

But would we hold out a hope if British Gas were not part of this David and Goliath tale? Would Addison interest the national press because of such a settlement? Would even the involvement of one-time media favourite Wolff Olins – now said to be going under the unfortunate acronym WO – be considered worth the effort?

Probably not. Yet if the case had involved sport, fashion, or pop culture it would dominate the headlines. Fund management arguably isn’t as sexy, but Nicola Horlick can’t complain about the coverage she’s had for her row with former employer Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. City shenanigans sell newspapers, their proprietors claim.

Design isn’t big enough business to merit such attention – and is unlikely to until it gains influence in promoting UK plc. But it does play a cultural role that largely goes unsung, and even its best talents tend to be acknowledged only in death. If you count the column inches devoted to design by the media over the past year, you’ll find most of it in the obituary columns. Compare this with, say, theatre, and you’ll see a far better spread.

One reason is the preoccupation of design bodies with courting only politicians and the City. They’re missing a trick by not also canvassing the popular vote on TV, for example – chefs and decorators manage well enough, so why not designers?

The same goes for public honours. There were no designers on the New Year’s Honours List, yet we have inspirational folk such as Alan Fletcher, James Dyson, Neville Brody and Seymour Powell to offer. With Sir Alan and Sir James standing alongside Sir Richard Branson and Sir Paul McCartney, design might command more respect. Arise, Sir Neville, we need you.

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