I wasn’t at the North America Now campaign’s recent seminar on design opportunities across the Atlantic so cannot judge how positive it was. Comments from those who were there suggest no real answers were given – we, for example, have learned more from the establishment’s reaction to our coverage than from the event itself. But I take Claire Nuttall’s point that for once the design community was invited to have its say (see Letters, opposite).
I can also believe this rare opportunity to talk has much to do with the sterling efforts Design Business Association director Chris Thompson and friends have put into forging links with the men (and women) from the ministry.
But the issue here is specifically North America, and key though that might be to some UK consultancies, it is of peripheral interest to most. What we can learn from the experience is the need for a similar collaborative spirit to push forward all matters affecting design – not least, as Maxine Horn says in her letter, in promoting design to British industry.
That was the issue raised by designers earlier this month as the National Furniture Forum convened to try to give UK furniture folk one voice. But design’s potential as a commercial generator was rather pooh-poohed by the mass manufacturers, showing just how much evangelising needs to be done in this sector alone.
Partly in response to what he perceives as a negative attitude within the UK furniture camp, designer Paul Atkinson has started manufacturing his own products (see Feature, page 12). He’s not the first designer to be sufficiently confident about his work to want to push it internationally. He knows that British design is respected abroad.
Design is a saleable commodity, as manufacturers in many other countries already appreciate but very few in the UK accept. Until we British pick up properly on this one, we’re missing an important trick. It’s not a new message, but as the furniture industry has so clearly shown, it hasn’t yet got across to those set to benefit most.