Different by Design, a £2.7m initiative to bring together designers and local manufacturers to deliver innovative product ideas to market, launched last week in Staffordshire.
Funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, it mirrors a similar project launched in Glasgow in 1997, which spawned The Glasgow Collection exhibition and products such as the Peugeot/Oxo Design Awards-winning Chasm chair.
According to Advantage West Midlands head of innovation Hilary Chilton, it is hoped the Stoke-on-Trent-based project will regenerate an area with ‘a lot of traditional industries’ and a ‘history of design innovation’, both of which have suffered in recent years.
She says the region’s ceramics manufacturers, in particular, have been hit hard by lower cost foreign competition.
Different by Design project director Bruce Wood, who also led the Glasgow initiative, says Staffordshire manufacturers – and UK manufacturers as a whole – must invest in better design and design management if they are to find their ‘way out’ of the impasse.
‘The only differentiators we have in the West now are design and creativity. We need to make use of these skills to help [our] industries [strengthen] their offers to the marketplace,’ he adds. Different by Design will introduce 50 Staffordshire producers and manufacturers to British and international design talent, as well as provide them with design management support throughout the three-year life of the project.
It will also match pound for pound up to £30 000, their investments in design-led projects leading to tangible prototypes. These will be exhibited in Staffordshire in ‘2005 or 2006’, with a subsequent, international exhibition possible, says Wood.
Different by Design was unveiled to Business Link Staffordshire two months ago and is currently considering more than 20 projects, Wood says.
The identity and logo (left) were created by Staffordshire-based consultancy Handforth Rawle.