A unified voice can bring dream to reality

One of the most inspiring thoughts to come out of the Halifax Initiative about design industry representation was from Sir Ernest Hall, founder and chairman of Dean Clough where the initiative was born. It is about realising your dreams.

The more audacious the dream, the more likely you are to get there, Sir Ernest said. After 40-odd years’ success in business, without, he says, being a businessman, at the age of 67 he is becoming a musician – the career he dreamed of as a teenager. He hasn’t lost sight of that dream throughout a long life as an entrepreneur.

And it might not end there. Sir Ernest has a new passion – to be a dancer. Watching Northern Ballet at work, he was enthralled and undaunted by the physical limitations of age. He reckons that, with daily practice, by the age of 70 he’ll be a dance phenomenon – even if he’s not that great.

What better encouragement to people in design who believe we can embrace change to steer the industry into a position of real power. Discussions in Halifax among designers, business people, educationalists, Government officials and others showed how confusing the industry’s structural diversity is to outsiders needing a handle on design. But overriding that was a tremendous spirit of unity among delegates and a desire for change.

Whatever fears prompted the Chartered Society of Designers to withdraw from the review, there was no in-fighting at Halifax between different interests in design. Differences were expressed, but the focus was on the common ground and a shared vision clearly emerged.

The strongest theme was the urgent need for a unified voice for design, taking account of the industry’s rich diversity. Task groups will now look at how this is best achieved – by a single body representing designers and consultancies, superseding the CSD and the Design Business Association, by one organisation absorbing the CSD, DBA and other design bodies, or by an umbrella body set up as a single door to the others.

This needs to be done quickly with the goodwill of the whole industry, and to this end the thinking that came out of Halifax will be relayed broadly and through various means. We need feedback, passion and support if we are to make it happen, but it is only the first step.

The real dream behind the Halifax Initiative is to get design into a position of influence in Britain within the next five years, making a positive impact on social and economic life.

As an industry we need to shape up now to make that happen and to repay the generosity of spirit that Sir Ernest and others have shown to people in design.

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