If there is a barometer measuring how design is faring in the wider world, it is surely Design Week’s Hot 50. Compiled with input from readers and honed down by a panel of industry experts, the listing charts the people and organisations that have made the greatest contribution to design over the past 12 months – over and above the demands of their remit.
This year’s selection – the Hot 50’s third incarnation – shows a distinct shift in emphasis, with high-ranking politicians, members of design’s officialdom and even royalty taking over from the artists and illustrators favoured last year as prime movers for design. They take their place among a host of client companies, cultural institutions and individuals, who have, in the panel’s view, gone the extra mile.
A year ago, no one would have guessed that Chancellor Gordon Brown would turn out to be a staunch champion of design. But a trip to China apparently scared him into action, to find ways to build the UK’s competitive edge. Design, he maintains, is the key, and he’s been happy to shout about it since his Budget speech in March.
Brown’s conversion has manifested in more than words, with the Cox Review commissioned to assess the strength of the UK creative industries and plot a route to market through indigenous businesses for them. The review is due to be delivered to the Treasury on 17 November, but its author, Design Council chairman Sir George Cox, makes it into the Hot 50 in anticipation of the result.
Joining them in our ‘honours list’ is James Purnell, the youthful minister for Creative Industries and Tourism at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Purnell is relatively new to the job, but his enthusiasm for design is patent and his place in the listing is by way of encouragement as much as for words said.
HM the Queen makes her debut in the charts for two generous gestures towards the creative industries, when she hosted events at Buckingham Palace. The Duke of Edinburgh was very much in attendance, design being more than a fleeting interest for him.
Politics of a different kind earn Design Museum director Alice Rawsthorn a place in the Hot 50. Her impressive silence over internal rows at the museum, and the controversial decision to award the £25 000 Designer of the Year prize to non-designer Hilary Cottam, show style and diplomacy.
Other cultural institutions worthy of note, this year, are the Natural History Museum – winner, with its bold new identity, of the Best of Show in Design Week’s first Benchmarks awards – the National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The last two are both undergoing adventurous revamps, down in part to the spirit of their directors.
Young and old are honoured in the listing. So, while typography great, Alan Kitching, makes a second appearance for his work, to promote typography crafts, winners of top student and young designer awards are also mentioned. D&AD’s Chinese trio earn their place for being voted Students of the Year, while the One Year On winners make it too.
Missing, though, are design’s representative bodies. The Design Council’s Red Unit makes it through, for its ground-breaking work in social services, as does D&AD’s energetic education team. But the message is still ‘must try harder’ to other bodies.
Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor, Design Week
Acid Anti-copyright theft campaigner Acid has made it into the Hot 50 for the third year. This illustrious track record shows just how tireless Acid founder and chief executive Dids MacDonald and chairman Simon Clark, Head of Intellectual Property at London law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, are in their lobbying activities.
As a supporter of designers whose work has been plagiarised by manufacturers or retailers, Acid has helped its members to win court cases or achieve settlements. Examples include Willis Gambier’s bedroom furniture and Gary Mann’s Booty fashion handbag.
It continues to patrol the high street in a bid to sign up retailers to the cause and is taking on the hotel and leisure industry. But the big thing for 2005 has been Acid’s lobbying at European level, through its Acid Lobby arm, to make design copying a criminal offence and for more legal remedies to protect against infringement.
Acid supports the European Commission’s proposals requiring member states to treat intentional intellectual infringements on a commercial scale as criminal offences. Acid Lobby has submitted a mediation proposal to the Patent Office for commercial cases and has launched a blueprint for a national design education scheme called Educate To Protect.
All of Us Set up in autumn 2003, largely as a breakaway from London digital design group Digit, All of Us has built on Digit’s heritage as a trailblazing, creative consultancy.
When Simon Sankarayya, Nick Cristea, Orlando Matthias and Phil Gerrard quit Digit ahead of its deal with WPP to found All of Us with former Random Media creative director Mickey Stretton, they planned to take interactive design across all platforms.
Ironically, they earn their Hot 50 place by winning Best of Show in the 2005 Design Week Awards for a website – the Sony Aiwa site. It is an honour most of them shared before – Digit was a previous Best of Show winner, with the MTV2 On Air project.
Sadly, the Sony Aiwa site – also joint winner of the Interactive Media – Commercial category with Aardman, for its own site, www.aardman.com – can no longer be visited. It was a short-term project born of the deal between Sony and Aiwa, but it combined technical genius with strong aesthetics, creating Aiwa World – a land where Monty Python-esque ideas meet Yellow Submarine-style graphics – to give each product its own on-site environment.
When All of Us launched, its founders cited ‘design for good’ as one of its objectives. Clients to date include shirt manufacturer Thomas Pink and erotica brand Coco de Mer. But it’s still early days.
Apple Computer The winning combination of design head Jonathan Ive and chief executive Steve Jobs has set Apple Computer head and shoulders above its rivals in its attitude to design.
This was recognised this year by D&AD president Dick Powell, of Seymour Powell, who bestowed on Ive the coveted D&AD President’s Award for outstanding contribution to the creative industries.
British-born Ive has numerous personal gongs to his name, acquired running Apple’s San Francisco design team. But Apple products invariably win creative awards in their own right and this year Ive’s team added another Design Week Award to its trophy cabinet, for the iMac G5. It also won three Silver Awards in the D&AD prize scheme for the fourth-generation iPod, the iPod Mini and the Cinema Display. The past 12 months have seen a new departure for Apple in the UK, with the opening of the Apple Store in London’s Regent Street. Designed by architect Gensler and design groups Eight Inc and ISP Design, the store gives customers the opportunity, not just to buy products, but to try them out, discuss them with staff and learn more through seminars. It’s also a useful research exercise for Apple.
With plans to roll out ‘mini’ stores across Europe, and reports of a stronger London design presence, Apple is not complacent. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see it back in this listing next year.
Audi Design Foundation Audi Design Foundation is a ceaseless champion of design, best known for its schools programme, including a national awards scheme for product design. The energy of the charity’s director, Michael Farmer, and his team is legendary.
But the ADF team has cast its net wider this year, setting up college projects to take design undergraduates through the entire design process. Of these, the most significant is Designs of Substance, which involved students from three UK universities in designing for the townships of South Africa. This built on last year’s ADF project in the favelas of Brazil.
Nine students – three each from Northumbria, Nottingham Trent and Ravensbourne universities – were selected through a contest that involved addressing one of three design briefs: on water supply and hygiene; cooking and heating; and space and storage. Finalists spent a week in Cape Town in August, presenting their ideas to the people living in the townships and gaining feedback.
The ADF is hoping to repeat the exercise next year, focusing on the needs of a different emerging nation.
Gordon Brown One of the most significant moves for design this year has been the way Chancellor Gordon Brown has seemingly adopted it as a means by which the UK can maintain a competitive edge over foreign rivals.
His Budget speech in March contained measures that could help the industry considerably. Not least of these was the announcement that new Design Council chairman Sir George Cox had been tasked with carrying out a review of how design can best boost productivity in British manufacturing, and to investigate the relationship between design, small businesses and universities.
The Cox Review, designed by Sea Design, was due to be delivered as the Hot 50 went to press. Among its key findings, industry activists expect to see wholesale endorsement for programmes the Design Council is already running with industry, such as its Design Immersion exercise, whereby designers are placed into manufacturing companies for a period and the results monitored.
There is also likely to be further support for a national design centre, proposed in the Budget speech for Newcastle Gateshead, which will be the first region identified for a year of design-related activities in 2007, as part of the Design Council’s public engagement programme. However, recent revelations suggest that the centre might now be in London’s Holborn area.
Brown is reported to have been shocked into action, to give the UK a competitive edge through design, after visiting China and seeing for himself the manufacturing capabilities there.
That shock extended way beyond the Budget. ‘Success doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design,’ became his mantra in an impassioned speech at the opening of September’s London Design Festival. Long may that sentiment last.
Jason Bruges Just occasionally, a designer stands out for pushing the boundaries. Jason Bruges is a prime example.
Known for his lighting schemes, for projects such as the inspired all-star designer hotel Puerta de America in Madrid, Bruges doesn’t like to be considered a lighting designer – he is more than that. Still in his early 30s, he trained in architecture, working with Foster & Partners on the Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, among other things, but is now focused on applying interactive technologies to the built environment. Having taught himself electronics while studying architecture, he enjoys exploring ‘responsive’ design, such as light and sound, and moved from Foster & Partners to Imagination with this as his goal.
He set up Jason Bruges Studio some four years ago, and employs a small team of people, with backgrounds that span film, graphic design and set building. Projects range from: the Madrid hotel, where he created a Memory Wall for the lift lobby on the floor designed by architect Kathryn Findlay; an LED display set on 12m-high Litmus totems at Havering, to transmit local data such as traffic flow; a facade at Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries that will respond to traffic and people flow; and an installation at Rafael Vinoly’s Leicester Performing Arts Centre.
Bruges’ greatest strength is the fact that, while his work is always intriguing, swinging between art, design and technology, he can’t easily be pigeon-holed. This is the real trait of a great designer.
Channel 4 Channel 4’s 4Creative in-house design team almost deserves a Hot 50 listing in its own right, for its redesign of its own channel branding, on which it worked with Rodd Design. This won the team a rare D&AD Gold award for its creators – the only one awarded this year.
The promotional sequences feature moving images shot from across the world, from a series of roadside pylons, to a gas station and a concrete housing complex, that fleetingly reveal a figure four as the camera pans around. Blink and you might miss it.
It is part of 4Creative’s philosophy to collaborate, drawing together individuals from within the channel and from outside. Working with a mission ‘to create great work, whatever the medium’, its takes on projects in design, TV, publishing, marketing and commercials production.
And 4Creative isn’t limited to working solely for Channel 4. American Express, British Airways, Cadbury, the Discovery Channel, Nokia, Npower, Smirnoff and Volkswagen are among its external clients.
But it takes its place alongside its parent channel in the Hot 50, because both share a highly creative approach to design, architecture and related subjects.
While 4Creative may win the awards for its design, Channel 4 has shown a consistent appreciation of the creative industries in the TV programmes it commissions and broadcasts.
For example, it has broadcast live the awards ceremony for architecture’ s top accolade, the Stirling Prize, in a prime-time TV slot on a Saturday evening, with Kevin McCloud as presenter. It has done more than most TV channels to popularise design – and it does so with quality and style.
Code Computer Love Winner of the Grand Prix at the British Interactive Media Awards in November last year, Code Computer Love is one to keep an eye on for the future.
Based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the six-year-old consultancy claims its success is due to the quality of its work, rather than sales promotion. It comprises some 20 people, including, what its website describes as, ‘brand-literate producer strategists, designers who understand usability, and creative programmers who can push on- and off-line application development to the limit’.
Together, the consultancy maintains, this diverse team makes ‘Computerlove’. ‘Ours is a simple mantra,’ it maintains. ‘Love what you do, and you’ll do it better’.
In the past, the consultancy has created a website for Warrington Council and worked for clients such as the National Space Centre, Brother, Kimberley Clarke, for which it created the Kotex website, and UCI Cinemas.
The BIMA Grand Prix was for Future Proof, an educational CD-Rom for Keele University. Aimed at 14- to 16-year-olds from lower socio-economic groups, the CD was devised to encourage its audience to enter higher education. It also took top prize in the BIMA’s Best Use of CD/Kiosk category.
Future Proof won the Grand Prix for its use of humour and interactive content, to depict university life to, what the judges described as, ‘the notoriously critical and often cynical’ youth market.
David Constantine David Constantine has long merited a place in design’s Hall of Fame, though he makes his debut in the Hot 50 this year. Wheelchair-bound himself, as a young designer at the Royal College of Art, he focused on improving mobility for people who are unable to walk.
Over the past 15 years, through his design-led charity, Motivation, which is based in Bristol, he has concentrated his efforts on providing ‘appropriate’ wheelchairs and professional wheelchair services, to meet the huge need in the developing world.
This year, that initiative culminated in the formation of Worldmade, with the support of retail giants B&Q and Kingfisher, to provide a programme through which Motivation can start to address the shortage – estimated at 20 million wheelchairs worldwide – by mass-producing wheelchairs of consistent quality at low cost.
The wheelchairs issued through Worldmade are mass-produced in eastern China and assembled on arrival at their destination, rather than manufactured locally. They are delivered to local services, flat-packed and in boxes. The basic model is fitted to the individual’s needs by local technicians, trained under Worldmade’s Fit for Life assembly programme.
This system guarantees consistent quality and frees up partner organisations in locations identified by Worldmade from actually producing wheelchairs, to train wheelchair users in wheelchair skills, and offer them vocational training to help them gain employment. The partner organisations can also advise users on their rights and handle advocacy work.
The first Worldmade wheelchairs have three wheels and are designed for use in rural areas. They have so far been distributed through partner organisations in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. Partner organisations have, meanwhile, been trained in India and Nepal, and Worldmade is now looking to expand into Indonesia and East Timor.
Cornwall Design Forum It’s been a great year for regional initiatives in design – witness also the work of Olwen Moseley and other activists in Cardiff. And, with the Design Council’s Public Engagement programme of biennial regional initiatives set to kick off in Newcastle Gateshead in 2007, under the direction of John Thackara, we can expect more to come.
Organisations such as the Design Business Association and the Design Council have put considerable effort into engaging regional design communities over the past year. The DBA has appointed representatives from design groups outside the capital, but in the case of the Cornwall Design Forum, the initiative was locally generated.
Cornwall Design Forum was set up as a trade association by local design practitioners in November 2004. It was born of an invitation to a group of designers from Creative Kernow, a company tasked with developing Cornwall’s creative industries to devise a design action plan.
The purpose of the forum is to provide support for the region’s design sector – worth more than £250m a year,according to the Cultural Industries Task Force – with plans for an awards scheme. This year saw the launch of its first design festival in September – to coincide with the London Design Festival.
The collective that launched the forum, include local consultancies Timothy Guy Design and Absolute Design, and it has won support from Professor Alan Livingston, principal of Falmouth College of Arts, among others.
Design Partners Design Partners is the organisation tasked with promoting overseas trade for UK design businesses. Jointly hosted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and UK Trade and Investment, it aims to grow international markets for the design industry – a role that is increasingly crucial for UK design – through various policies, programmes and activities.
To this end, its creative industries advisor, Christine Losecaat, who took up the then position of design advisor in March 2003, organises overseas trade missions for creative consultancies, with emerging markets in the Far and Middle East as key targets.
This year, the overseas focus has been on Asia, with ‘delegations’ to Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan, that have either taken place or are planned. It has also started work on forging alliances for the creative industries in the Gulf.
Closer to home, it is working on partnering activities within the automotive, aerospace, construction, healthcare, financial services and leisure industries – sectors it has identified as key to design.
It also has the remit to bring together representative bodies in the creative industries, to co-ordinate their export activities and, through that, to help maximise their potential.
Since March last year, former Design Council chairman Andrew Summers has been chairman of Design Partners. In that role, he has used his network of contacts and considerable ambassadorial skills to further the organisation’s reach.
George Ferguson The work of architects and designers has always overlapped. Both take on interiors and exhibition projects, while leading architects, such as Norman Foster and Nick Grimshaw, regularly venture into product and furniture design, whenever a project demands it.
It is, however, rare for the architectural profession to acknowledge designers as their peers. This is why George Ferguson, immediate past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, is listed here for the bridges he sought to build during a two-year presidency that ended in August.
Ferguson forged links between the RIBA and the British Interior Design Association, launching a joint initiative in June to provide a ‘form of appointment’ for interior design services. Ferguson saw this as paving the way for further tie-ups between professional bodies, to establish common codes of practice over, often contentious, issues such as contracts.
A colourful character, renowned for his signature bright red trousers, Ferguson is a staunch believer in breaking down barriers between professions and building alliances instead. He is particularly attached to the concepts of urbanism, place-making and the creation of communities – but he acknowledges that these visions can’t be realised by architecture alone.
Ferguson has now returned full-time to his West Country practice, Acanthus Ferguson Mann, but, as past president, still holds considerable sway at the RIBA. We look to his successor as RIBA president, Jack Pringle of Pringle Brandon – whose practice has a strong track record in interiors – to continue the good work, and we hope to see him in this listing next year.
Early indications are that Pringle is even keener than Ferguson to engage with design and to open up the RIBA as a centre for other creative professionals. He could even rival the Design Council’s bid to set up a design centre in London.
Malcolm Garrett Malcolm Garrett has made it into the Hot 50 before, on the strength of his outstanding contribution to design, over time. A cult graphic designer on the Manchester music scene in the 1970s, he changed course in the 1990s, pioneering digital design in the UK through his then consultancy AMX, set up with Alasdair Scott in 1994.
Meanwhile, he picked up a professorship at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, taught at the Royal College of Art and became a Royal Designer for Industry.
Much has happened since then – not least AMX’s demise at the hands of its then owner, French conglomerate Havas, to become Arnold Interactive, and a subsequent renaming as Ai London, by its new parent Media Square, followed by Garrett’s departure from London to Toronto for a two-year stint with Immersion, creator of cinemas ‘in the round’.
But it is what has happened since his return to the UK, in the spring, that has earned Garrett his place in the 2005 Hot 50. He has established a way of collaborative working not previously seen in design.
On his return, Garrett was invited by Tim Fendley to join him as creative director at Fendley’s London consultancy, Applied Information Group. Garrett introduced AIG to Dublin group X Communications, run by Marie Redmond, and to technology-driven Cognitive Applications, whose founders he’d known since the 1990s.
Garrett, meanwhile, is creative director of all three businesses, whether they are working separately or together. The Guardian National newspapers have been through several traumas in recent years. Declining readership figures – set against the backdrop of an increasingly Internet-aware population – and rising postal charges, based on size, have put pressure on broadsheet newspaper managements to rethink their offer.
The Guardian, under editor Alan Rusbridger, shunned moves by The Independent and The Times to a more compact tabloid format, opting instead for the Berliner format, favoured on the Continent, that falls between broadsheet and tabloid, for its September relaunch.
The change – a major one for a news daily, with a track record of great design instigated by Pentagram partner David Hillman – was masterminded by Guardian creative director Mark Porter. It follows a five-column grid for news pages, compared with The Independent’s seven, and boasts a new typeface, Guardian Egyptian, designed by Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz, complete with slab serifs.
The result has provoked a mixed reaction from newspaper designers, many saying it has lost some of the values Hillman instilled. But Porter and Rusbridger have dared to be different. The circulation figures will show if it is a commercial success.
Italian newspaper design guru Mario Garcia will be keeping a sharp eye on its performance, as he prepares its sister paper, the Sunday broadsheet The Observer, for its incarnation in the Berliner format.
Thomas Heatherwick Is Thomas Heatherwick the new Leonardo da Vinci? Possibly so. Certainly, he is hard to pigeon-hole.
Heatherwick hit the news this year with the sculpture B for Bang, a 56m-high, spiky, steel structure outside Manchester Stadium, where the 2003 Commonwealth games were held. It takes its name from former runner Linford Christie’s admission that he started a race ‘on the B of the bang’. He was also the curator of the Design Museum’s Conran Collection show for the first quarter of 2005.
Last year, he completed The Wellcome Trust’s abstract glass bead sculpture for its headquarters in London’s Euston Road. Then there was the curling pedestrian bridge at Paddington Basin.
Current work includes a Buddhist temple in Japan, inspired by the folded cloth on which the Buddha sits. He is lead artist at Milton Keynes and has moved towards product design, creating bags for Longchamps. There is also a design for a 60-seat seafront cafe, proposed for Littlehampton’s East Beach.
Heatherwick insists that he is a designer, though architecture and art are well within his capabilities. With the team at Thomas Heatherwick Studio in London’s Kings Cross boasting architecture, design and structural engineering skills, who knows what will happen next? But whatever it is, it will be ingenious and intriguing.
HM the Queen You don’t expect royalty to make it on to an honours list for services to design – particularly after Prince Charles’ famous intervention in architectural circles in 1984, when he railed against Ahrends Burton & Koralek’s scheme for London’s National Portrait gallery (subsequently designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown). But the Duke of Edinburgh has taken a great personal interest for years, through the annual Prince Philip Prize.
Over the past 12 months, he and HM the Queen have, however, played a blinder, in the way they have fostered design. Last summer, Royal Society of Arts fellows had the opportunity to make their mums very happy when the RSA celebrated its anniversary, with a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
In December, Her Majesty opened the palace to the creative industries once more, for an evening reception to celebrate British Design. That event brought together stars of all ages and disciplines, from fashion and advertising, to car design and graphics. Everyone was happy to put their republican tendencies aside.
In neither case did there appear to be a hidden agenda – just a well-received recognition of the importance of creativity in the UK.
Ikea Swedish homewares giant Ikea has done much to provoke comment over the years, bringing contemporary design to out-of-town stores, at extremely affordable prices. This is the realm of the flat-pack, but with a sense of fashion and fun that has been lacking in some more traditional furniture stores. The invitation to ‘chuck out your chintz’ has proved irresistible to many of us.
But Ikea is set to take it beyond soft-furnishings now, with plans to create prefabricated homes. Packed in flat-packs, the BoKlok homes – which translates as ‘smart living’ – are popular in Scandinavia. They have open-plan layouts, big windows and high ceilings.
Now they are to be built in the UK, with Glasgow taking the lead, and developments in Edinburgh, the New Forest, Brighton, Newcastle and Gateshead in the offing.
The Glasgow development, announced in September, comprises 100 units for sale or rent in Drumchapel and is part of a £100m revamp of the area. It is led by New City Vision, a consortium of developers including Bishopsloch, Cannon Kirk Homes and Laing O’Rouke, and is expected to create jobs as well as homes.
Institute of Directors A welcome addition to the Hot 50, the Institute of Directors has re-focused its strategy to include design as one of the services offered to members. Leadership – the main thrust for the small- to medium-sized companies represented by its members – technology, and design and innovation are now the three themes underpinning activities, such as seminars.
The IoD’s first major foray into raising design awareness since the strategic shift, spearheaded by IoD marketing director Jonathan Cummings, was a one-day Design Summit held in October. Under the banner Value Creation through Successful Design, it brought together speakers from UK consultancies, such as Elmwood and Navyblue, the Design Council and Eindhoven-based domestic appliances giant Philips, to put the case to the audience for good design.
The IoD has regular dialogue with design’s official bodies. We can therefore expect more design-led initiatives and collaborations.
The Design Summit was one of the first of its kind to occur during Miles Templeman’s reign as director-general. He took over from the now Design Council chairman, Sir George Cox, who had already identified the role design can play in improving business for IoD members.
Alan Kitching Alan Kitching made it into the Hot 50 in 2003, largely for a lifetime of outstanding work in typography. Singled out, on that occasion, was his work on the ‘design against the war’ ad campaign, instigated by architect Lord Rogers.
This year, he has taken a further step in propagating the art of great typography, by bringing letterpress printing back into the repertoire of graphic designers. Working with his partner, graphic designer and chanteuse Celia Stothard, he has introduced letterpress printing and print-making into The Typography Workshop they run in Kennington, South London.
Stationery, cards, posters, invitations, and the like, can be ordered through the workshop and prints can be bought.
As Kitching has always had a keen interest in teaching, not least at the Royal College of Art in London, the venture means that these traditional hand craft skills will be passed on to younger designers, giving them an alternative approach in this digital age.
Charles Leadbeater Charles Leadbeater has been the eminence grise behind many of the policy documents that have come out of the creative industries over the past few years. Unsung in the wider world of design, he has, nonetheless, helped bodies, such as the Design Council, to shape opinions and communicate them to business, Government and beyond.
Leadbeater describes himself as a ‘sociological writer’. On the one hand, he is a gun for hire by companies and organisations that need a writer, speaker or advisor on innovation, entrepreneurship and the knowledge economy. On the other, he is a senior research associate with independent think-tank Demos, penning reports on social and civic entrepreneurship and the rise of knowledge entrepreneu