Cross boundaries and cut out pigeon-holing

Lynda Relph-Knight

Three things link Liz Farrelly’s class of ’89 feature (see page 15), apart from the Royal College of Art connection. All five graduates have survived recession, all are working in a way that is at least allied to design, and all are quietly carving out a name for themselves for doing things differently.

You could add any number of their contemporaries to the list. But if you look at those who, like illustrator Lawrence Zeegen and The New RenaisCAnce co-founder Carolyn Corben, have crossed boundaries and taken an entrepreneurial stance, you’re looking at the few who could take design forward. It’s their difference and their ability to break the mould that makes them special.

These designers aren’t likely to enter the big business world to which the likes of Eighties’ heavyweight Stewart McColl aspire. And they’re just as unlikely to enter the league the Government aims to promote in its politically driven zeal for “wealth creation”. We’re talking of creatively motivated people who are making a small but significant difference – and making a living.

One thing that singles out the best of them is that they cross disciplines, through necessity or by intention.

Success in the Eighties and the subsequent economic constraints have led to so much pigeon-holing in design that it is hard for the average designer to deviate from a prescribed path. Design colleges are now perpetuating the practice by offering increasingly specialist courses as they strive to make a buck.

Schooled by consultancies, clients have come to expect specialisation to the extent that it’s not enough that a design group has a track record in, say, packaging. It won’t get a look in unless its experience is specifically in the market where the client’s business lies.

Is it any wonder that clients are so cautious these days, when they generally sample such a small section of design? If they could be encouraged to look beyond the obvious, they might be pleasantly surprised and creativity might once again be prized by business.

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