Our congratulations go to the newly dubbed Sir John Sorrell on attaining a knighthood on the New Year’s Honours List . It is an honour richly deserved and acknowledges his enthusiasm in promoting the creative industries over many years.
With his wife Frances, Sorrell led successful design business Newell and Sorrell, selling it to Omnicom in the late 1990s and seeing it subsumed eventually into Interbrand. On the design front, he and Frances now run The Sorrell Foundation, a charity responsible for initiatives such as Joinedupdesignforschools and design-led projects in health and prison arenas.
As for his honorary roles, Sorrell was chairman of the Design Business Association in the early 1990s. He later became chairman of the Design Council, where he was responsible for the blueprint that set an agenda for change which laid the foundation for the council as it is today, and, more recently, the chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.
Oh, and then there is the London Design Festival. The annual showcase was his brainchild and he still plays an active role.
Though it is a personal accolade, Sorrell’s knighthood is important to design because of the nature of what he does. A graphic designer by background, he has moved far away from the notion of design as artefact or even communication tool, important as those aspects of the business are. His focus in recent years has been on providing the glue between disciplines and, indeed, between communities and design.
This surely is the way forward for the creative industries in which design is key. Only by meshing with architecture and other creative professions and embracing public interest can design have real impact on social and environmental ills and the Sorrells have been among the pioneers in facilitating this.
We can be sure though that Sorrell will not rest on his laurels. He is likely to use his knighthood to boost design’s influence in even wider circles. We wish him well in his endeavours.