Designers’ views will help the future needs initiative

You have to applaud the Design Council for its involvement in the European Union-backed initiative Design for Future Needs (DW 20 September 2001). Aimed at promoting the fundamental role design can play in policy-making across business and government, this collaborative venture promises to go much further than previous Design Council projects, such as its work on design against crime and the report, Living Longer, on the implications of an ageing population, produced with the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Research Centre.

Design for Future Needs has the potential to put design at the heart of technological and social innovation. This would tie it more closely into the global economy and bring a human touch to the tough world of science and technology.

It is a natural progression for designers to become more involved in policy if you accept the definition of the designer’s role by Milan Polytechnic visionary Enzio Manzini as being ‘to imagine a solution, to understand the constraints and opportunities and make strategic moves to realise them’. Certainly, it has long been recognised in some Far Eastern countries where design is central to official policy-making.

But while smaller commercial examples abound of UK design consultancies getting to the heart of client businesses – take the relationship between Priestman Goode and Bisque Radiators – it’s not as easy to change minds on a grand scale and methodologies need to be established.

To this end, this week the Design Council hosted a two-day workshop for its European allies in the venture, such as the newly fledged Italian Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and French design body L’Agence pour la Promotion de la Création Industrielle. The aim was to explore ways to integrate design into planning for the future and establish how it might help as a forecasting tool, identifying social, economic and industrial trends on which this may have a bearing. The exercise is due to culminate in a conference in November.

Inevitably, there was an academic flavour to the workshop. It is, after all, about establishing basic principles. But it doesn’t have to be an exercise carried out in isolation. Given that the design community at large stands to benefit from the enhanced status it could lend the profession, the easing down of European national barriers it could entail and new markets opening for design, we all have an interest.

If you have ideas or relevant experiences you’d like to share, please e-mail me on lyndark@centaur.co.uk and I’ll ensure that your views are put to those involved in the initiative.

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