Design Association is an accreditation scheme

Referring to the launch of the Design Association, Lynda Relph-Knight says some are angered by the addition of another official body in an over-crowded market (DW 30 March). It’s not just another organisation, it’s an accreditation scheme.

But is accreditation needed? Who will it benefit? Some feel it sets an entry barrier to the design industry for those with no formal training, thereby denoting a level of professionalism upon which a design buyer can rely. Others fear it may become elitist and only serve the interests of larger agencies.

The Chartered Society of Designers is the only professional body with a royal charter, where membership denotes ‘professional practitioner’, so it has always held an accreditation role. If it reunited with the Design Business Association to ‘benefit from its 20 years experience’ as was proposed, that would suggest the DBA had experience of accreditation schemes – which it doesn’t.

All bodies are struggling to find the ‘critical service’ to ensure membership growth. Designers will choose the organisation that best represents their views and needs, but the differences should be made clearer.

The DBA still struggles to get its membership much over 300 agencies – about 6 per cent of the design industry. That leaves 94 per cent unconvinced. Why?

A recent piece of British Design Innovation research found that reasons for not joining any membership organisation included cost, too much choice, lack of clear differences, no guaranteed return on investment and London-centric events.

Desired services included professional recognition, accreditation, intellectual property advice, lower cost insurance, legal protection referrals and professional documentation – ironically provded by all of them.

Communication and cost are key. Maybe membership bodies should focus on communicating the differences more clearly. Can anyone recommend a good communications agency?

Maxine Horn, Chief executive, British Design Innovation

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