Jonathan Sands’ OBE is a well-deserved reminder of the value of design


We start the new year on a happy note, knowing that the efforts of one of our community have earned him the recognition he deserves.

The award of an OBE to Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands in the New Year’s Honours List (, 5 January) is also a timely reminder that design still holds some sway in the corridors of power, despite the swingeing cuts the coalition Government is imposing on public-sector clients and arts education.

This wont be lost on Sands and we can expect him to exploit his new status to good effect in the name of design. It is, after all, a long-term passion for the industry that has fuelled his involvement in it so far.

At consultancy level, Sands has built Leeds-based Elmwood into a global branding group, now with offices in London, Edinburgh, New York, Melbourne and Singapore. In doing so – and through a string of award wins – he has proved that you don’t have to be London-centric to succeed internationally and be highly talented.

But it is his unstinting enthusiasm on the organisational side of design that has earned him the OBE. He was chairman of the Design Business Association in the mid-1990s and one of the ’gang of four’ behind the Halifax Initiative, which aimed to rationalise design representation. He has served on the Royal Society of Arts Council and the Design Council, has been chairman of the UK Design & Skills Alliance (now the UK Design Alliance) and done much to promote Elmwood’s native Yorkshire – a fine gesture given that he hails from Derbyshire – and that’s just for starters. Yet he remains a regular guy who loves his golf and his flashy cars.

Despite all this and a hands-on role at Elmwood, Sands is modest about his achievements and bent on doing more. Don’t be surprised, therefore, if he uses the gong to further design’s cause – or if more honours come his way before too long.

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