Design owes a lot to James Dyson. He has shown that designers can be successful businessmen on the global stage and has fought hard to protect copyright in design, setting legal precedents along the way.
He is entrepreneurial and committed to quality. He is a great ambassador for design, despite the public spat when he quit as chairman of the Design Museum over differences with the then director Alice Rawsthorn.
It is only fitting, then, that he should join the tiny band of design knights and we congratulate him on achieving that honour (see News, page 5).
Significantly, Dyson has been honoured for services to business rather than to design, just as Royal College of Art rector Professor Sir Christopher Frayling was knighted for services to education a few years ago, though he was an effective activist for design. Meanwhile, no ‘corporate’ designers make the grade this year, though a clutch of theatre and fashion designers are recognised.
This suggests that, despite pronouncements by Chancellor Gordon Brown about the value of design to the UK economy, the establishment still sees design as a craft rather than integral to business. Though UK consultancies are moving into overseas markets and promoting innovation, it will take a long time for that attitude to change.
It is up to designers to nurture that change, by promoting the industry. In the 1980s and 1990s, design was studded with big personalities attracting national media coverage – Wally Olins, Rodney Fitch and Michael Peters among them.
It is harder now, in an age of teamwork, to single out individuals. We have heroes, fêted within the industry, but where are our champions? Lord Rogers has spoken out for architectural quality in the 2012 London Olympics, but who is fighting design’s corner?
If there is a thought for 2007, it is surely to boost design’s standing in influential circles, not just within your clients’ businesses, but beyond.
LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR