Partnerships are often more effective than accreditation

Maxine Horn is right (see Letters, page 11). Despite David Kester’s protestations, the design community has not been impressed by the Design Council’s Keep British Design Alive campaign.

Maxine Horn is right (see Letters page). Despite David Kester’s protestations, the design community has not been impressed by the Design Council’s Keep British Design Alive campaign.

Horn also makes a pertinent observation about accreditation. With four design bodies planning schemes – some of which have a vested interest in attracting members or cash through the exercise – there is bound to be confusion among consultancies and clients. Which organisation can they trust to offer the best accreditation service?

But the question remains about how effective accreditation is at marrying the right consultancy with the right client. Can you really choose a designer through what might amount to a numbers game – years in business, number of staff, revenue and so on?

Design prides itself on its people. It is personality and culture that sets one group apart from the next and it is that that most clients appreciate.

The business may have changed hugely since the 1960s, where it has its roots, from the cult of the creative maestro to teamwork, with designers and ‘suits’ playing an equal part. But the strongest client relationships are still built on the mutual respect born of personal interchange.

Far Eastern clients have long built trust with designers over time before committing to major projects. This process may have speeded up, but the principles remain – hence the need for UK groups to link with local agents or consultancies. The same is true in Latin America, according to Brazilian groups.

Maybe the focus should shift back to clients, with design bodies helping them to understand the creative process. The Design Council has taken a lead in this and the Design Business Association is reportedly looking to engage clients more, offering guidance on how to set up rosters and the like. This surely is the way forward.

So let’s set aside accreditation and focus on forging partnerships. It moves design up the food chain with clients and brings the best results.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor – Design Week

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