I have to declare an interest here, having been born in Huddersfield, but you have to hand it to the Design Yorkshire activists for their perseverance against all odds, and the creativity they have used to argue the case for design as a generator in the region.
The campaign to put Yorkshire on the map through design was started three years ago by Jonathan Sands, chairman of Leeds-based design group Elmwood, with the likes of Huddersfield’s Labour MP Barry Sheerman. Since then, under an identity created by The Chase, the ‘movement’ has amassed some £300 000 through sources such as the Design Council and European funds and generated publicity-grabbing products such as the Yorkshire teapot by product design consultancy Blueprint and a Yorkshire taxi conceived by students at Huddersfield University.
Last week it looked like Yorkshire’s bid for fame might be entering its final round, the resourcefulness of even Sands being eroded by the apathy of local businesses, but Monday’s meeting has changed all of that.
From Doom to Boom, designed by Thompson Design, is deliberately meant to provoke. It paints a picture of ten years hence in happier times for Yorkshire folk, the region having regained its pride through design, generating healthy local businesses and tourism. Implicit is the taking to task of companies that have so far failed to heed the call and create a vision for the future. And by 27 May, when Lord Puttnam hosts a follow-through dinner, Sands and friends are looking for positive signs that the ideas it contains have stirred up an entrepreneurial spirit among the locals akin to that of their Victorian mill-owning forebears.
There is a bluntness about this latest tactic to embarrass local business you can expect in Yorkshire. Passions run high, but Yorkshire folk know when enough is enough. Sands explains simply that his pride won’t allow him to countenance failure.
But isn’t Design Yorkshire’s ‘sod you’ approach something the design community at large can learn from? It’s not unlike the way The Sorrell Foundation is seeking to instill design thinking into the public sector, through its work with schools, health authorities and prisons. It’s about persuading by doing, albeit for John and Frances Sorrell in a slightly gentler Southern way. It’s about having a firm, focused belief and living it using a language that makes sense to the target audience and it’s about having confidence in design.
Sands and his associates have that in buckets. We wish them luck over this final bid to convey their message – and look forward to hearing from them again with positive news on 28 May.