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.