Make the most of the recession by taking risks and experimenting

There is a restive spirit in creative quarters these days – and it’s not just the hot weather that’s provoking it.

On the one hand, there is a dissatisfaction with the all-pervading blandness perceived as permeating design, with designers afraid to challenge clients or to get things wrong. On the other hand, there’s a strong view that the economic downturn is an opportunity to be seized by creative souls to show how things can be done differently – and to better effect.

Both sentiments are echoed by Simon Waterfall this week (see Private View). Urging readers to risk more at a time when failure is the acceptable norm, the erstwhile Poke director, now of Fray, says recession has shaped his life – the dotcom bust of 2001 took out Deepend, of which he was a founder, and his latest venture launched this year in tough times. But he says recession offers a time to play and experiment. Waterfall’s first point is wholly in keeping with the thoughts of Neville Brody of Research Studios, author of the Anti Design Festival planned for London in September (see Editor’s blog,, 23 July).

As well as capturing the attention of global greats like Stefan Sagmeister, Brody has struck a chord with the likes of Javier Garcia of UK group Miura (see Letters). His approach bodes well for the Royal College of Art, which he joins officially in January 2011 as Professor of Communication Art and Design.

The second point – that recession is a time to play – would be applauded by designers of the calibre of Tom Dixon, who said last year that he was treating the downturn as a time to experiment rather than anguish about the situation. He and those who share this attitude will be well-equipped to innovate as the upturn comes.

If the creative community could only build on this confidence, we could create a new era for design that everyone can buy into. Go for it.

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