The main parties remain unclear on design – but the APDIG has just the agenda

As we go to the polls it remains uncertain which party best favours design. Pundits have done what they can to whittle out nuggets of hope from the manifestos, but even the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group found slim pickings in its analysis.

APDIG’s pre-Election report did highlight sweeping consensus across Labour, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats that Britain’s future needs to be industrial and low-carbon. This could provide an opportunity for design to display leadership in Green issues.

Whatever the outcome of the General Election though, we hope the new administration will perceive design’s ability to give the UK a competitive advantage that Gordon Brown identified while still Chancellor. The arguments made then, via the Cox Review of 2005, are still as valid and many of the mechanisms Sir George Cox proposed to maximise design’s impact are in place.

What is key for design is that the relationships forged with Government departments, often involving very senior civil servants, are allowed to run. These include work being done in education, crime prevention and healthcare by The Sorrell Foundation, the Design Council and others.

It is also vital – for design, and for taxpayers of all political persuasions – that cross-party initiatives already in play continue regardless. Most important are recommendations by the APDIG and the Design Business Association that, if adopted, could vastly improve public-sector procurement of design (DW 4 March).

Recommendations in Design and the Public Good: Creativity vs the Procurement Process? include the appointment of a chief advisor for design within Government, a review of Government design spend and training for Civil Service design-buyers.

The APDIG and DBA report has effectively created a design manifesto for the Government to adopt. Let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves once the election bunting has been taken down.

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