I was very interested to read your Comment last week (DW 22 March), particularly as I had just spent a morning at Buckinghamshire College in a steering group set up to develop a design centre in High Wycombe. Why High Wycombe? Well, as you said, the challenge is to establish design centres in every UK city.
By design centre I don’t mean a museum or a collection of British “approved” products, nor a rarified cafÃ©. The vision needs to be more fertile, to create living centres where local businesses meet and share information and stimulation, where design is the common denominator. The emphasis should be on “change” and “the future”. Designers are, after all, the agents of change.
We have all, from Prime Ministers to design educators, always agreed on four things: optimum success in world markets depends on offering the best design; Britain fails to convince the bulk of its industry and business that “this means them”; Britain still successfully sells the service of its designers to overseas manufacturers; an ever increasing proportion of goods bought in Britain are British designs imported from foreign manufacturers – thus shooting ourselves in the foot.
What if we can create design partnership centres which stimulate and involve local firms by:
Having ever-changing exhibitions of good design and futuristic concepts
Showing how good design is achieved
Holding seminars, providing information on materials, technology, services and so on
Organising and publicising design competitions for local businesses.
The centres would form a partnership of firms, local authorities, education establishments and designers and be a forum for the exchange of ideas. Membership would be by subscription and the centre would link up with other relevant local centres such as design colleges, exhibition centres, chambers of commerce, Business Links and so on. Centres might offer space for showcases (or showrooms) of well designed products and would be open to the public. They could even develop into a form of speciality shopping – as they have in parts of the US. And yes, they would have a cafÃ©. If Government could provide the initial seed funding I am sure the rest could be provided through local efforts.
Perhaps the time has come for us all to work harder to promote good design locally.
Bucks HP10 8JW