Pick the right medium to send the message

It’s great to report, three years down the line, that, with the exception of the Chartered Society of Designers, design’s official bodies are at last working together to give the industry more focus and serve their respective members as well as they can.

The second “congress” of Design Unity last week was a fantastic example of those who promote design coming together to move the agenda forward. At the congress, staff from five of the six bodies involved in Design Unity met to brainstorm ideas to improve communication between themselves, within their organisations and with their external audiences. Sadly, the CSD saw fit to isolate itself once more, not sending a representative and so excluding its members from the benefits of collaboration.

The session brought home two things to me. First, it became clear just how active the design industry is. You could almost feel your diary gain weight as the five representative bodies outlined their autumn programmes. And while a lot of the events are about inspiring the creative community or making design businesses more effective, many have the potential to raise design’s profile in the wider world. A lot of what is going on in membership organisations such as the Design Business Association and British Design and Art Direction is generated by practising creatives, who devote time to projects they believe will benefit the industry. The least the rest of us can do is support these initiatives – or feed in even better ideas.

But the congress threw up a second, more important theme – the nature of communication. Congress facilitator Shan Preddy told participants that communication involves more than one person, that it needs a message, conveyed in a way appropriate to its audience, and that feedback from that audience is as important as delivery.

Preddy’s first point is self-explanatory, but we can all learn from the other two. So many design groups believe their brochure to be a thing of beauty, a totem to their work, when, in fact, beautiful or not, it is virtually indistinguishable from its rivals and, like them, will end up unappreciated in the recipient’s bin. The same is even truer of many websites. However stunning the graphics or clever the technology, unless the content is right – and punters know it’s up there – it is a meaningless token of a company’s grasp of electronic media.

If design is about communication, then it must be thoughtful interchange with others rather than statements made for their own sake. We should also learn from the feedback – particularly if it is a resounding silence.

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