UK designers’ belief that they are the best in the world is not shared by senior design managers overseas, who have placed the UK sixth overall in a league of nine countries.
Italy has the best designers overall, followed by Germany, the US and Japan, according to the 79 pan-national design managers questioned in a Design Council/ Ideo survey. They regard graphics and packaging, where the UK came second and third respectively, as our main strengths.
“[Even] when it comes to fields in which we are an undoubted world leader, like product design, the problem is often about overturning traditional perceptions of Britain,” reads the report.
However, many overseas designers do not share the design managers’ view. “There may be the popular impression in the US that the UK is stuck in the Victorian era but in the design industry we are aware London is now a fashion centre,” says Lippincott & Margulies principal Peter Dixon in New York.
He says UK design has changed in the last decade to include commercial as well as aesthetic considerations. “UK design has the crispness and rigour of Germany and the freewheeling exploration of New York,” he adds.
Jim Waters, design director of Minale Tattersfield Design Strategy in Paris, rates UK designers highly and sees packaging and retail design as our greatest strengths.
“My only criticism really is that they only speak English which can make communication difficult,” he says.
Landor Associates has seven UK staff out of a total of 25 in its New York office. Creative director Richard Brandt agrees with Dixon that product design is the UK’s greatest strength.
Meanwhile, a separate Design Council survey on design exports reveals UK groups to be underperforming on corporate identity, branding and literature.
The survey finds 69 per cent of design groups export their services, with 19 per cent generating at least a quarter of their total income through overseas business. The US was the most popular destination, accounting for 26 per cent of exports, followed by Germany, France and Scandinavia.
Both surveys will be unveiled today at the start of Design in Business Week.
See Week Ahead, page 36