We mustn’t underestimate the power of the regions

It is no accident that we home in on Bristol this week (see feature, page 16). Design is thriving in the West Country city, despite the economic downturn.

Like their counterparts across Britain, local creative groups are suffering the rigours of recession as clients draw in their horns and delay projects. But there is a positive spirit out west that consultancies across the country can learn from.

The emergence of Bristol Media as a networking vehicle for local groups echoes similar initiatives in, say, Cornwall, Cardiff, Brighton and the North West. That its instigator, Mike Bennett of digital design group E3, is talking of making it a proper membership organisation and has created a publication in its name to promote Bristol’s creative talent potentially puts it up as a rival to national bodies such as the Design Business Association.

Bristol Media is indicative of what is happening across the UK. Regional networks are developing apace as local players – often of national or international standing – realise the need to link with their peers and embrace local clients. The Cornwall Design Forum is among the most established of these and this, plus a track record of European funding for regeneration projects in the county, will have been key to the Design Council’s decision to stage Dott Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2010.

We often say flexibility is a core strength that will arm design in the downturn, while more single-minded marketing services offers fail. In the regions, flexibility is writ large, with many groups straddling design, advertising and marketing, and digital design creating the glue.

London remains a major player on the world design stage – it is the springboard to overseas projects and a hub for international talent, while Glasgow and Edinburgh carry their own cachet.

But this shouldn’t downplay the power of other regions. In recent years, they have developed creative strengths that bolster the UK’s claim for design supremacy.

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  • Zahra Nagji November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am


    I wish I could agree on this article about the Design in the Southwest recognising talent, it definitely is but somehow I have not been that lucky.

    I lived in Bristol for a year and now live in Clevedon and have had no luck whatsoever in Product Design. I graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2007 with a BSc Hons in Computer Aided Product Design, got a placement with Bosch and since then have been fervently applying for creative jobs and always rejected due to lack of experience. I fear that recent graduates like me with limited design experience are up against candidates with more experience, it seems like an endless loop without the right experience I will never be given that opportunity. I landed in Bristol having been given the opportunity to work in a Defence Engineering company but again it was not what I really wanted to do. Now I work in a Civil engineering company and still harbour a passion for product design and really wish there was some way I could get a foot hold in the industry. I have created multiple portfolio’s in vain and having read your article feel a little inspired that maybe there might still be a little hope for a (fairly young) fresh faced graduate like me to find a product design job. Fingers crossed!

    Zahra Nagji

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