Paul King is right (see letter, opposite). Too much management and not enough vision is fueling mediocrity in creative output. Good project management is essential to make sure budgets and other objectives are met, particularly where a big roll-out is concerned. So too is some form of measurement as to how a design performs in the marketplace. But they are no substitute for imagination.
Just as in the mid-Eighties when the balance in consultancies shifted in favour of the “suits” selling design, so now there is a tendency for project management, by consultancy or client, to be upheld as king. It is important, but only if the concept being implemented is worth the effort, in terms of function, aesthetics and innovation.
Not every job can make the “creative leap” so beloved of design gurus such as Michael Wolff, but more can aspire to it. If design is seen by clients and consumers to really make a difference, not just to immediate sales, then its influence will grow and expectations for quality will be raised.
Of course, creativity does not have to be confined to the quality of the end-product. Industrial designers in particular are showing vision by becoming more involved in the production side
Take RDSport, created by Bristol group Kinneir Dufort (see First Sight, page 13). The development of a “human” product to relieve a serious medical condition has led to a device that can help athletes and others who need to boost their lung capacity to enhance their performance.
Kinneir Dufort helped identify a broader market, working closely with its client Sunrise Medical. Many other consultancies across various disciplines might have done the same. But in this instance the design group has also created the products, using its own prototyping equipment to produce a batch of 600 or so units for the launch.
Though many could benefit from it, RDSport still has a relatively small market. It will be quite expensive – 1500 a unit has been cited – and will be used under supervision by medics or trainers. By producing the first units itself, using silicon moulds for the plastic components rather than the expensive metal tooling necessary for mass production, the designers can tweak the design quickly and cheaply and cut production time by half.
It’s a bit like Priestman Goode’s move into manufacturing through its subsidiary Plant, though on a more ad hoc basis. In either case, designers have more control over quality and can influence the way the product is marketed. If that isn’t engaging imagination what is?