The design heroes shine through to brighten future

Times are tough, but design will rally round and make the best of the situation. I can predict this with confidence because it has happened before.

Design has consistently shown the value of its offer to a client or customer where the less flexible ad industry has failed. Its advantage now is the reputation it has built in UK boardrooms as an effective business tool, at a time when the expectations of staff and end-users are more sophisticated than they were a few years ago – we can expect the winners of the Design Business Association’s International Design Effectiveness Awards, announced on 22 October, will once more bear this out.

But behind this – and the main assets design has in working its way through the current downturn – are the great entrepreneurial people it attracts. These are people driven by passion and ideas, prepared to take a risk, but to stand firmly by their beliefs. They are prepared to fail, and come back again.

This week, spurred by a similar, albeit wider trawl of the creative industries by a financial weekly, we asked a handful of people who they think is leading the design industry forward (see VoxPop, page 13). This small selection suggests the array of talent in design, but we want you to also name your heroes, to enable us to paint a picture of the personalities upon whom the future of design is pinned.

Terence Conran, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Friday with the publication of A Sort of Autobiography, Q and A (HarperCollins, £20), is an obvious choice. His huge contribution to design, retail and restaurants over many years, riding failure, starting new ventures and making them successful, is an example to us all.

But so too is the approach of 30-something Gary Lockton, chief executive of the ill-fated Deepgroup and nominated by Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands (himself a design hero in my book). I would add Lockton’s fellow Deepend founders Simon Waterfall and David ‘Gravy’ Streek to that nomination, as all three shared a vision and risked all to do things differently. It didn’t work this time, but it undoubtedly will next.

These names may recur in your nominations, but think broadly. The right client, for example, can really make a difference – the reasoning behind our weekly Client Profile section is that we need to identify and honour people on the client side who stick out their necks for good design. Then there are the creative teams, Seymour Powell, Pentagram and Ideo Product Development being obvious examples.

Send your nominations to and we will help your top choices to build their influence not just within design, but in a bigger arena.

Latest articles