UK has strong design leaders as well as creatives

If the reports are correct, we should be greatly heartened by Apple Computer’s decision to buy more top creative talent in the UK. Considered alongside the huge success of Apple’s British overall design head Jonathan Ive, the appointment of Harriet Devoy as creative head for graphics at Apple Europe would suggest that Apple boss Steve Jobs is doing almost as much as Chancellor Gordon Brown to foster the image of British design abroad.

The details of Devoy’s job are yet to unfold. Industry sources suggest this new post is a design management role, coordinating the efforts of ad agencies and other creative teams working for Apple in Europe. But this does not preclude the notion of an in-house design team being established in London under Devoy’s direction.

The appointment potentially puts Devoy on a par with fellow Brit Clive Grinyer, erstwhile London-based director of design and usability at Orange Global Products. Grinyer’s role has escalated to the point that he is working virtually full-time from Paris – home of Orange owner France Telecom – and rumour is rife about a bigger job there for him.

So UK designers are proving they’re not only highly creative – Devoy, for example, has scored a number of Design Week and D&AD awards in her time at Johnson Banks and more recently The Chase, while Ive and his team have won shed loads of honours – but that they can manage design well, in the studio or within a client business.

This is not lost on Brown’s advisors as he plays the design card in his leadership challenge. But some of our best talents are being snapped up by overseas companies at a time when we need our sharpest edge to compete globally.

There are admirable examples of strong design managers in UK businesses – Dee Cooper and Joe Ferry, at Virgin Atlantic, and Mike Crump, at British Airways, spring to mind, along with more eclectic consultants, such as Raymond Turner and Michael Wolff. But we need more designers-turned-clients to really make a difference.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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