We are told by officialdom that UK design is a valuable export. This view of the international standing of our local talent was borne out at the recent Milan Furniture Fair, where the likes of Matthew Hilton, Jasper Morrison and Ron Arad vied for stardom with the Italian furniture greats and are as popular with manufacturers from across the globe.
We are told also that design and innovation are inextricably linked. The Design Council’s Millennium Products initiatives highlighted this, while the likes of Apple Computer and Philips live it daily. But innovation isn’t just evident in product design. Design colleges apply it to research and other experimental projects across all disciplines and it is one of the buzzwords attached to seminars on just about any design or marketing topic.
We have, meanwhile, long associated design with sustainability – another over-played seminar descriptor – on the print, packaging or product side. Designers, we are told, have to have the wherewithal and influence to take clients down the environment-friendly route. Well, maybe.
Given the industry’s illustrious reputation, why are so few design groups listed as recipients of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, given that it covers those three areas? Don’t they know they are eligible? Or is it simply that they don’t enter, not valuing the accolade? It can’t be a size issue, as many of the businesses awarded this year are bigger in ideas than in physical attributes.
Architects seem less daunted by the Queen’s Awards. Bath-based Feilden Clegg Bradley is a winner for sustainability, and London Eye creator Marks Barfield for innovation. But where are all those design-led companies, perhaps smaller than the mighty Dyson (innovation), but worthy of note nonetheless? Where, for example, are Wedgwood and Ideal Standard – both innovators – or, on a smaller scale, display company Dimensions, or Colebrooke Bosson and Saunders, known for its computer accessories?
Nor do the Queen’s Awards just focus on product. Service and advice qualify for consideration, hence the success of WPP Group’s research-led marketing company Business Planning and Research (international trade). Design could surely field a few contenders here.
A Queen’s Award must rank, at least, as a great new-business calling card, particularly for overseas markets and public sector work. And, it has the cachet to help boost design in the public eye, as well as among clients. It also gives the business media a useful hook on which to hang coverage of the creative industries.
So why not go for it next time? Check out the website www.queensawards.org.uk for details.