New DBA team should fight to attract talent

If change is a generator for opportunity, then the Design Business Association is well placed. Its annual general meeting this evening (Thursday) will see five new faces on its 11-strong board of directors, elected by DBA members. With that much fresh blood and enthusiasm, we hope to see it making a stronger public stand on behalf of the design community. But will the new team rise to the challenge or will the DBA continue to be “a mere dining club” in the eyes of Royal College of Art rector Christopher Frayling and other design ambassadors (DW Ear-wigging, 27 September)?

As with any trade body, boosting membership is key to the DBA. It needs muscle to make any kind of showing – and the cash which new subscriptions bring. And it needs to attract people prepared to get stuck in and do their bit for the association – and hence the industry. That’s how the argument goes.

But what of the brighter, creative end of the profession – the young lions and lionesses of design who are making a stir in the press, tapping into youth culture and riding the waves of new media? To survive, they also need to make money, so why aren’t “business” bodies like the DBA actively courting the best, challenging, say, British Design and Art Direction for members across the board of disciplines but at the top end of talent? How many of the audaciously individual players nominated for the Chartered Society of Designers’ new prize (see news, page 6), for example, are members of the DBA? None are listed in the association’s latest directory.

Traditionally, the best radical talents stand aloof from mainstream design, maintaining that trade bodies have nothing of value to offer them. Yet a combination of business skills and outstanding talent is likely to make for lasting success, and should underpin great Nineties design. Until it attracts radical folk, the DBA will represent only one facet of design and won’t harness the industry’s full creative strength. Now there’s a challenge for its new directors.

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