Guardian writer Lina Saigol said in the paper’s Saturday careers section that “design may be complicated, but it isn’t rocket science”. Has no one told her the key part design plays in the space race, or indeed in any terrestrial transport project?
To be fair, Saigol was really only plugging interior design in her piece, prompted by the return this week of the British Interior Design Exhibition after a six-year absence. And we can expect that many folk involved in that will be decorators of the chintz and tassels camp, rather than designers of commercial interiors. That she hadn’t a full grip of the facts was also patent – Design magazine editor David Redhead must have been stunned to read he had my job at Design Week, for example.
But the sad fact is that in some influential quarters, design is still seen as a superficial facelift executed by an arty few. This is despite growing acknowledgment, not least by Saigol, that graphics, engineering and product design might make a difference to the bottom line. Saigol even cited Laura Ashley as an example of how you can shift from sewing curtains to commercial success.
How fortunate therefore that the Blair Government has turned to Terence Conran for advice on design. It’s been a long time since Conran tinkered with the tassels, if indeed he ever did. He takes a holistic, entrepreneurial stance in his business with design as an integral part of that. You can’t, for example, single out the design of his new
Bluebird Garage complex in Chelsea as key to its exciting ambiance. The food in the restaurant and club and the merchandising strategy for the supermarket are just as important.
We need more individuals like Conran and James Dyson and companies such as Psion, John Lewis Partnership and Virgin that put design at the centre of their enterprise, without separating it out from other aspects. If Government can grasp their message we might at last see design making a real difference to the bottom line and making life better for people in the UK.