Insular islanders should make break from London

Jim Davies’ Private View (DW 19 June) was a revealing insight into the blinkered vision of designers who believe creativity revolves around London. I’m a (half Cockney) product designer, but I don’t see my field dominated by London.

Think of award winners like DCA and Creactive in Warwick, Renfrew and Jones Garrard in Leicester, Forth in Edinburgh, Kinneir Dufort in Bristol, and the many exceptional in-house groups like Dyson, Land Rover, Black & Decker…

Davies is right to say regional differences in the UK are a plus point, but they really only matter to us on our insular little island.

A stereotypical US executive views Scotland as a suburb of London. In his frame of reference we are all within regular commuting distance. Our customers are starting to realise this. But many designers bury their heads in the sand and fret about irrelevances like what’s perceived as the right postcode or dialling prefix.

More importantly, the world is shrinking, we’re in a global market and the right people for the job are anywhere from Birmingham to Bangalore. Much has been made of the export of design skills from the UK to overseas, we’re much less willing to acknowledge the reverse.

Designers often trot out rubbish along the lines of ‘…being close to the market enables us to anticipate our customers’ needs…’. So how could Far Eastern designers anticipate our needs for consumer products and cars during the 1970s and 1980s? Long before the Japanese and Koreans had studios in Europe and the US. Why do buyers from UK fashion and homewares retailers travel the world in seach of well-designed garments and products. It’s not just price, they’re actually good designers and people want their work – just like the work of those from outside the M25.

We constantly face direct and indirect competition from designers and manufacturers all over the world, never mind our doorsteps. The capital vs ‘provincial’ discussion is nothing more than smug dinner table conversation for people who are missing the point and, moreover, will miss the next job. As innovators and creative people we should always look outside the box for inspiration and work. The bottom of the box could well be London and it’s difficult to get in and out of. Make the break, see the world, you don’t need to be there.

Alistair Williamson

Managing director

Blueprint RDA Product Design

Manchester M1 7AD

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