Indisposable heroes need greater reverence

The theme of the week must be heroes – a group to which Richard Williams’ latest subject Michael Wolff surely belongs (see Profile, page 16). It first came up at a Design Council-backed conference on Government purchasing, only to re-emerge a couple of days later at another session, this time focused on commercial clients and sponsored by graphics consultancy Light & Coley.

Both events looked to inspire best practice in the use and management of design, in public and private sectors, the argument being that if used properly, design can help improve performance and cut organisational costs.

Evidence suggests that without a hero or champion on the inside, design can have an unnecessarily rocky ride with clients. The case cited by Light & Coley was of Bass-owned betting chain Coral, where the marketing director championed an identity overhaul carried out by the consultancy with interior designer Callum Lumsden. That director’s subsequent departure means the message is being diluted in the roll-out of the retail concept.

Delegates at the event, titled Design Decisions: Effective Purchasing in the Public Sector (DW 24 May) determined that Government could benefit from an internal design champion – and urged the Department of Trade and Industry to act as hero by setting up an exemplary design management system. But it was assumed that the “champion” would come from the design community and, like Design Council chairman John Sorrell, would work for free.

Until the UK takes design into its culture, we have to rely on champions to further the cause. Even in countries we hold up as models, it’s often individuals or family businesses who are the heroic patrons of design, so if you are fortunate enough to have heroes on the client side, support them.

Too often we see design know-how as voluntary or optional, and Government agencies don’t help by encouraging honorary roles for designers. This not only makes life even harder for our industry, but reinforces the brick wall that client enthusiasts face in their fight for good design.

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