Post-recession, design could play a more important role

So it’s official. With recession finally at an end, we can look forward to that other R-word, ‘recovery’.

We know that recovery will not come overnight. Pundits will be on the look out for ‘green shoots’ of optimism, but they could be slow to emerge in sectors where the cuts have been particularly deep. Indeed, things are unlikely to be quite the same as they were before the credit crunch ravaged the world economy.

Designers generally have a resilience to deal with social and economic shifts, however hard our community is hit by a downturn. Over years of booms and busts, consultancies have become leaner and meaner, which is good, but less positive practices have crept in, too, and we need to address these as we move into healthier times.

Top of these are budget constraints imposed by clients in the downturn and the expectation of getting more work for their cash. This is not just key to the economic welfare of consultancies, but to the nature of their relationships with clients. We know the best, most commercially effective work is born of mutual respect. We need to regain this wherever we can and lay down new terms of engagement with clients.

Things will be different with other relationships, too. While we’ve all been contemplating our bank balances, technology has moved on apace.

Products such as Apple’s Tablet, due for launch this week, might change our relationships with publications – the demise of book stores already suggests that. But more significant has been the rise in social networking, not just as a way to link with mates, but as a phenomenon brands, products and services cannot ignore.

Meanwhile, the environmental lobby has grown amazingly despite recession, giving designers a chance to take a lead, for their own benefit and for that of society.

Recession may be over, but the challenges remain. The secret, as recovery slowly builds, is to turn them into opportunities for design and move with confidence into new realms of leadership and responsibility.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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