Investment in the future is about more than just cash

We have to thank Rodney Fitch and Oliver King for keeping the discussion about value in design going (see Letters, page 11). What better time for the industry to restate its terms of engagement than in the run-up to the publication of the Cox Review on 17

We have to thank Rodney Fitch and Oliver King for keeping the discussion about value in design going. What better time for the industry to restate its terms of engagement than in the run-up to the publication of the Cox Review on 17 November?

In his review, Design Council chairman Sir George Cox will lay before the Treasury a strategy for design to play a key role in boosting the competitiveness of UK business. Perhaps this element constitutes the ‘measurement’ Fitch spoke of (Letters, DW 27 October). But we hope Cox will balance this with evidence of how design can help to improve life generally – perhaps what Fitch means by bringing ‘worth’.

Investment in the future is about more than profits, with design viewed as the commodity Fitch fears. The Sorrell Foundation’s Joined Up Design for Schools initiative – about to go on national tour – the work of the Design Council’s Red Unit and other social ventures prove this. Even at the commercial end, consultancies such as Engine, co-founded by our correspondent, product designer King, are ‘designing’ companies rather than delivering the products and communications strategies that oil their wheels. If done well, this impacts as much on the wellbeing of employees as it does on the bottom line, each positively affecting the other.

All of this surely demonstrates design’s ‘worth’. But Design Council director Richard Eisermann, whose speech at the Institute of Directors last month kicked off this debate, is right that it all amounts to ‘value’, and that value extends beyond financial associations.

Cox will surely take this on board in his review, given the Design Council’s lead in social areas. But he should also heed the example of Far Eastern governments, which have long put design at their heart. How much better if the Government was to bring designers in as active advisors – Seymour Powell’s Richard Seymour and others are already advising Singapore – than base its strategy solely on a one-off review.

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