Collaboration is crucial for a coherent approach to design

Lynda Relph-Knight

It is great to hear that Design Council chairman Sir Michael Bichard is committed to collaboration as a means of achieving the objectives laid out in the council’s latest manifesto, The Good Design Plan (see News, page 3).

We have needed a coherent approach across design for some time. But despite efforts in the mid-1990s, when the Design Council as we know it was new, to develop a single voice for design across design bodies in response to a call from the then Tory Government for clearer lines of communication, it has been a bit elusive. What became known as the Halifax Initiative, because of its birth in the Yorkshire town, met with some success, but its main achievement was to start the ball rolling.

As Bichard has identified, what we need now are partners to make things happen rather than just for a voice to be heard, and this is already happening in some quarters.

The Design Council’s work with regional development agencies on the Designs of the Time programme is, for example, galvanising effort in the regions. Meanwhile, the Design Business Association and the Royal Institute of British Architects have reportedly started discussions about how they might work together.

This joined-up approach will be vital for the council to achieve its aims. For though much in The Good Design Plan is familiar, integrating the council’s existing programmes, its bid to place sustainability at the heart of its definition of good design will demand collaboration with a host of individuals and organisations.

Not mentioned in the published plan is the council’s newly stated ambition to help UK design reach international markets. This will be a big job, especially as its omission from the plan means it probably isn’t reflected in projections of some £24m total expenditure over the next three years. But if the council can help organisations like Design Partners and UK Trade & Investment, which are already doing sterling work in this direction, to achieve even greater things, it will be investment well made.

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