Designers ought to follow the RIBA’s path

There’s much to be said for the design community taking a leaf out of the architects’ book and considering its future prospects (see feature, page 12). As an industry we’ve tended towards the short-term view for some time, largely because of the immediate need for survival, and many now believe it’s time to take stock and explore the possibility that design might be a coherent profession, despite its diversity of discipline.

As Jeremy Myerson says, the issues thrown up by the escalation of information technology, shifting client attitudes, an under-resourced education system and the like demand proper consideration. But it’s not as though the concept of a long-term strategy is alien to designers. Most consultancies, as small businesses, have a business plan based on at least a three-to-five-year projection.

It is not necessary for design to embark on quite the same exercise the Royal Institute of British Architects has undergone. The scale of that four-year task reflects the character of RIBA president Frank Duffy, who thrives in the world of academic research, and the traditionally “learned” nature of the architectural profession. Designers are generally quicker on their feet and much more adept at getting to the heart of an issue through more streamlined programmes.

But there is the question of who should take on the job. Design Business Association director Ian Rowland-Hill has indicated that, with a broader remit, the Design Council might be the one. But how can a body that is effectively a Government outpost pronounce on a profession – and why should it? Surely it’s down to the profession itself to set a course for its future – and that throws the task back into the DBA court, alongside the Chartered Society of

Designers and other representative groups.

As for funding, well that’s where the Design Council could come in, channelling Government cash into a project that can only lead to a more effective design industry. Who knows, such an exercise might even bring all design’s factions together at last.

Lynda Relph-Knight

Latest articles