Time to get to grips with genuine creativity

We have a crisis of creativity in design. We’ve cracked the notion of promoting best practice – we’ve had to survive as an industry over a period when so many design businesses went to the wall. Now we must push the quality issue if design’s claim to being a positive force for change is to have credibility. If great design and great creative thinking is all that is on offer, then clients won’t have to settle for the mediocrity we see around us, and we’d all be the stronger for it.

First we have to identify what constitutes great design. The design effectiveness camp might argue for design that can prove its commercial worth, while others bid for design that changes perceptions. Some say it’s something that strikes an emotional chord, while others stick with the blinkered idea of a minimal concept hanging on a Helvetica typeface.

I welcome your views, but believe that we in the industry know creativity when we see it. Why else are design award shortlists so similar each year, though different juries vote in different winners? But how do we define it and, more importantly, how do we foster it?

Some say the colleges should play a bigger part, claiming that today’s modular courses and lacklustre teaching stifle creativity. British Design and Art Direction – still dominated by advertising, though with some clout in design – is among those actively pursuing this. Others claim the best – or wackiest – creative minds are being tempted elsewhere, not least into advertising. The rest simply blame clients for screwing them down on cost and not having the vision to take the risk.

Whatever the reason, it is the design industry’s responsibility to set the standards and communicate them to whoever needs to apply them. The Design Business Association has made great strides in promoting design effectiveness. I now challenge it, with design’s other official bodies, to make as strong a case for creativity. It should, after all, be what sets design apart from other consultancy businesses.

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