Design czars and strong leaders would boost design

Lynda Relph-Knight

With the Beijing Olympics behind us and football season under way, there’s a strong sense that it’s ‘back to school’ for more than just the kids. And it promises to be a challenging term for design and the creative industries.

So what will the autumn bring? Certainly, there are a few issues that were unresolved before the summer ‘recess’ that could have a positive knock-on for design.

There is, for example, D&AD and its fruitless attempt to appoint a successor to Michael Hockney, whose sudden departure in March last year left it without a chief executive. Its finance director Dara Lynch has so far stepped into the breach and financial shortcomings have been cited as a reason why the full-time post remains unfilled. But without consistent leadership and a visible front man or woman, the organisation lacks a strong presence, prompting many in design to say it has lost its way.

Williams Murray Hamm co-founder Garrick Hamm takes over as D&AD President from Poke’s Simon Waterfall on 18 September and addressing this vacancy has to be high on his agenda to take D&AD forward.

For London, there is the 2012 Olympics and how design will fit into pre-games activities. Will we finally have a design czar, to ensure the best design is commissioned in an exemplary way?

Still in the capital, will London Mayor Boris Johnson announce a strategy for design in his autumn statement this month? Perhaps he too will appoint a high-profile design czar – we live in hope.

Outside London, there is the Design of the Times initiative, hugely successful in Newcastle Gateshead in 2007 and originally intended by its instigator the Design Council as a biennial event. We were told in March that the next event is likely to be in 2010, hosted by Cornwall, but we’ve heard nothing since.

Action on any of these could have a positive impact on design. And that is without the effect on the sector of bigger issues such as Government policy, the economies of emerging nations and the American elections.

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