Congratulations – and thanks on behalf of the industry – go this week to Anti Copying in Design. It’s quite a coup for Acid, design’s proactive copyright watchdog, to have signed up John Lewis to its Retailers Code of Conduct, given the high-street retailer’s influence among its peers, several of which have not been averse to ripping off the odd design in the past.
It’s no real surprise that John Lewis is the first of the nine retailers approached by Acid to sign its pledge. It has a great track record for its consistency and fairness, and its commitment to design has been a feature of its culture as a philanthropic business from the outset, at least as far as its workers are concerned.
The fact the Acid document isn’t legally binding shouldn’t matter. We can expect John Lewis to stand by what Acid chief executive Dids Macdonald describes as ‘a moral statement of intent’ not to copy designs or knowingly sell copies produced by other manufacturers.
Design has long played a part in shaping both staff and customer environments in John Lewis stores to the extent that its recently revamped Peter Jones outlet on London’s Sloane Square was a pioneer of the now popular architectural glazed faÃ§ade known as curtain-walling.
John Lewis Partnership’s internal design consultant Douglas Cooper, though no longer working there full-time, has had the ear of the chairman for some 23 years – an enviable position for any design head – and its Waitrose supermarket chain has turned out award-winning packaging for some time. That JLP is believed to be looking to appoint a high-profile external design advisor to supplement its internal design resources only builds on what has gone before.
Though John Lewis’s design-friendliness is hard to beat in retail, others on Acid’s hit list also tend to have used design to a considerable extent. Marks & Spencer has been subject to legal action in the past over plagiarising a design, but we hope that it, along with Next, Woolworths, Argos-owner General Universal Stores, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Tesco and Monsoon will follow John Lewis’s example and renounce all such practices in future.
Should any of them fail to comply with Acid’s request, they are likely to find themselves closely monitored by designers and lawyers alike and even subject to a boycott. But why should they resist? Inevitably, they’ll get a better service from designers if there is an expectation of trust in their relationships – and by taking on board the legal implications of copying they could potentially save themselves the cost and trauma of being hauled through the courts, wittingly or otherwise.