Hands on the wheel

A ’hub and spoke’ approach is one way in which the UK’s design industry bodies could be looking to organise themselves in the future. Angus Montgomery looks at their changing structures and strategies

The landscape of UK design industry bodies has been changing dramatically over the past 12 months, as organisations restructure and develop more services in a bid to attract new members and better serve their existing ones.

As well as the radical changes to the Design Council (the organisation, which is becoming an independent charity and looks set to merge with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, is not a membership body, but a group that exists to promote the industry to wider Government and business), the Design Business Association is launching a new strategy to face out to clients, rather than inwards to design consultancies, the Chartered Society of Designers is progressing with its proposal to set up a system of professional certification for designers, D&AD is pledging to introduce a more ’campaigning’ edge and offer practical resources through its redesigned website and British Design Innovation is implementing what it terms a ’change plan’ under chairman Gus Desbarats.

The Government-imposed changes to the Design Council have provided the opportunity for design bodies to reposition their offers and look again at their relationships with each other. Desbarats says, ’In the Temple Review we gave the Design Council a picture of a national “hub and spoke” model, where the CSD, the DBA and the Design Council are the pan-design “hub”, each with clear roles: the Design Council looking at market failure and national policy, the DBA looking at the business of consultancy and the CSD looking at professional accreditation. The wheel would then have a set of sub-sector “spokes”, focused on industrial design, graphics, interiors and so on.’

BDI itself would presumably be one of these ’spoke’ bodies, focusing as it does specifically on practitioners of industrial design, which takes in product, interaction and service design. Desbarats, who has taken a lead role at the organisation following the departure of former chief executive Maxine Horne, says, ’BDI’s purpose is to promote more commercial opportunities for members – period.’

The organisation aims to achieve this by raising the profile of industrial design among other trade bodies and prospective clients and through initiatives such as a pilot scheme with ten universities working on collaboration models. Following his appointment as chairman, Desbarats initiated a review and a ’change plan’ for the organisation, which aims to provide more promotional services and closer ties to bodies such as the Technology Strategy Board. The organisation has also introduced a constitution – for the first time – and all directors will now be elected and have their terms limited to three years. Desbarats adds that BDI is also working on a plan to update its website, which is dependent on funding from members. He says, ’[The website] hasn’t changed significantly since 2005 and urgently needs to be brought into line with the exacting standards of our members.’

Two bodies that have recently used online initiatives to extend their offer are D&AD andthe DBA. Although it is a membership body, D&AD is somewhat different from other design representative bodies, both on account of its global membership and by virtue of the fact that it represents the advertising and – very consciously through current president Simon Sankarayya – digital industries. It is in the digital sphere that D&AD will aim to drive better engagement with its members, using its recently redesigned (by JP74) website to offer its members resources such as ’how to’ guides for graduates and students, an archive of projects and potential for e-learning schemes.

Laura Woodroffe, who recently became director of content, community and campaigns, says she wants D&AD, which previously based its engagement with members on annual events such as the D&AD Awards and New Blood, to have an ’ongoing conversation’ with members and the wider industry. D&AD also aims to move in a more ’campaigning’ direction, with Woodroffe saying, ’D&AD has the potential to be far more influential. There has long been a sense that we should build a stronger voice and place for ourselves as agitators for change.’

The DBA, which is in its 25th year, is, chief executive Deborah Dawton says, ’turning around from facing in to the design industry to face out to clients [and Government]’.

This plan will be manifested through the DBA members directory, described by Dawton as ’a new client-oriented service designed by them, for them.’ The DBA is also launching a new client membership scheme and is inviting three clients on to its board of directors.

The CSD is also seeking to establish a register, in this case of designers with chartered status. Chief executive Frank Peters says current CSD members – of which there are more than 3000 – receive benefits including Member or Fellow status, discounted professional services and Continuing Professional Development audits, support and training. Speaking last year of initial plans for the register, Peters said designers would be assessed on professionalism, skills, knowledge and creativity before being admitted to the register and acquiring CDes status. He says the chartered designer initiative will occupy the CSD for ’the best part of 2011’, alongside delivery of its course accreditation programme. The organisation has approved plans to amend its Royal Charter to set up the register, and the amendments will be presented to the Privy Council for approval.

Other bodies

  • Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group – promotes the design industry in Parliament
  • Anti-Copying in Design – membership trade organisation set up to combat plagiarism in design
  • British Institute of Interior Design – membership group for interior designers

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