The Design Council appears to have finally made a breakthrough in persuading the public sector to pay more than lip service to design. If, through its latest initiative (see News, page 4), it can hammer home the benefits of good design to Government and other public agencies, we should end up with a Civil Service that communicates better at all levels in a much more cost-effective way. The corridors of power could become less grey and forbidding, and visitors might find meetings more pleasant and more productive.
Above all, if Government were to become a true champion of design, rather than using it merely as a subject for politicians to sound off about when the platform is right, UK businesses might follow its example. That great visionary James Dyson would probably welcome stronger competition from within the UK for honours such as the European Design Prize – and UK plc would be the winner.
But to pull it off the Design Council needs help from all quarters, not least from the design industry. It has organised two talking shops on the subject with impressive lists of participants – a conference in London last spring and last week’s follow-up session. But to move from talking to action it must have the support of all interested parties – and to maintain its own credibility, it needs to deliver the goods within the timescale it has cited.
For design, the benefits are obvious. A proper system of public sector procurement will help everyone and spreading the design message should lead to more work for consultancies.
Less obvious is the longer term advantage of a move that unites the Chartered Society of Designers and Design Business Association. Successive heads of both bodies have backed the cause; now that both have been drawn into the Design Council’s network, we look to them to show Government that design can speak with one voice. Let’s hope they don’t blow what might usefully serve as a prelude to a CSD/DBA merger, at last giving design a trade body with relevance and real clout.