Dynamic design trade body can ease fear of unknown

Recent developments at the Design Business Association have, as your Comment suggested (DW 15 August), raised again the subject of a broadly representative designers’ trade body. How novel. Sadly, I recall reading letters on the subject in Design magazine in my school library over 20 years ago.

It must be the job of the design industry to organise its own representation, and heaven help anyone from outside who tries to impose a model. But I’ve no doubt the absence of such a body damages the profession. All other professions – architects, accountants, lawyers, teachers – organise themselves to give their profession a voice, to manage their collective identity and provide services and training to members that support their businesses. The design profession deserves no less.

More significantly, UK industry deserves no less. The Design Council’s work with business demonstrates to companies the ways in which design helps them compete and add value. Our aim is to help more businesses to become effective buyers of design services.

A truly representative professional body would be a valuable ally in this. For example, it would be the obvious partner (or even leader) in our imminent on-line Design Directory that helps businesses find the right designer and build an effective relationship with them.

Our research shows the biggest barriers to small and medium-sized businesses working with designers is a shocking lack of trust, concern about value for money and simple fear of the unknown. Imagine how a dynamic trade body could help to overcome all of this. Imagine the benefits to the design profession and to UK industry.

Each of the existing bodies engages in some of this to varying degrees and we work very closely with British Design & Art Direction and the DBA and the other organisations within the Design Unity umbrella. But none of them has truly representative, mass, designindustry membership coupled with a mission to promote the profession to its buyers/ potential buyers.

Good designers ask challenging questions and help create imaginative solutions that add huge value to clients’ businesses. Perhaps the design industry collectively should take some of its own medicine.

Harry Rich

Director of business

The Design Council

London WC2

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