I contributed to the Design Business Association’s Taking a Lead debate (see feature, page 13) by commenting on the need for a single body which represents designers and their profession.
My concept was that a design body could be formulated by combining the three major organisations (Chartered Society of Designers, DBA and the Design Council). I believe that there is further detail to be discussed on this point.
The Royal Institute of British Architects is currently under fire concerning the quality of its service to architects. However, the main lesson that the design profession needs to learn from this organisation is that, to the majority of architects throughout the world and to the public, RIBA is the face of British architecture.
Both architects and the public know where to come when they need direction concerning the subject of architecture. The design profession is in need of a similarly cohesive approach to self-organisation.
As was pointed out at the debate, the Design Council does not ‘represent’ designers as such, but it is the public face of what they do.
This validates the need for the inclusion of the ‘shop window’ role played by the Design Council into a single representative body. The fact that the Design Council is publicly funded is by no means an excuse for not including it under a professional ‘umbrella’ organisation.
Partial funding is not out of the question. In my opinion, that point about funding made at the debate is symptomatic of a helpless and, on occasion, lethargic attitude towards the profession.
If we feel that there is a need to rearrange the structure of our representation, then the design industry – a world leader in many fields – should address the Government and demand that it not only respects our judgement, but also that it assists us in our mission. Our revenue – generating skills – is our collateral in terms of deal-making.
Finally on this point, the inclusion of Government funding is not an inhibiting factor if you make it very clear from the outset that the design profession is not a vehicle for ministerial propaganda – although the success of the industry is an inevitable reflection of the performance of the management of the country’s economy.
In consideration of the make-up of a single representative organisation I would propose the following roles:
The CSD should be responsible for the management of professional membership, legislative and continuing professional development matters. It essentially defines and manages the concept of the ‘professional designer’.
The DBA should endeavour to develop business links between designers, potential clients, suppliers, contractors.
The Design Council should perform the ‘shop window’ role for the design.
As you will see, there is nothing astounding about these positions. In fact, it’s probably what they already see themselves doing. Therefore, in principle it should be possible for these organisations to work collectively as one body without massive disruption and minimal cost.
As for a name? The British Design Institute.