Designers cannot afford to let training take care of itself

It is not surprising to learn that designers are indifferent to training (see Professional Development supplement). Assuming basic technical skills and a modicum of talent, design training often takes place on the job, as no two projects are the same.

It is true though that new skills will be required in the next few years, if not already. For a start, as the world opens up you may need languages you didn’t learn at school, and the ability to negotiate with people from different cultures.

In a survey we carried out with research company YouGov, clients – largely from the UK – ranked business skills high on the list of attributes they expect from design groups in the future. But the good news is that creativity is still the main reason for employing a consultancy.

One simple way of boosting business expertise is to bring in an expert – as a non-executive director or as a senior member of the team – rather than training up designers whose talents invariably lie elsewhere.

This is effectively what Loewy Group did with the appointment of Iain Johnston as chief executive last year (see Profile, page 13). His brief is to help the fast-growing group consolidate, and he plans to do that partly by taking some of the management weight off the shoulders of the highly creative heads of consultancies like Williams Murray Hamm, Seymour Powell and The Team.

Loewy isn’t typical as it is an umbrella group, but it is building new models that others in design might learn from. For example, Johnston has instituted a training programme across the group that enables staff to learn from each other.

Johnston isn’t the only one hooked on training. Simon Bolton has, for example, introduced a system at The Brand Union. But it’s worth remembering that, for designers, formal courses aren’t the only form training can take. Lectures, exhibition visits and in-house prize schemes can be just as valid, but by building feedback sessions in for the whole team you can maximise the experience all round.

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