Clubs and cliques need to effect more change

Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, eh. Is it any wonder that common folk find it hard to get to grips with design when we honour our heroes with quasi-academic titles such as this? Where’s the idea of the much-vaunted “real world” in it all?

But, as Mike Evamy says (Private View, opposite), how refreshing to hear Nick Butler, new incumbent in that awesome role, spell out last week his plan to follow his predecessor as master, the late fashion doyenne Jean Muir, using the talent and influence of the RDIs in practical ways to promote design in the highest places. Butler, an eminent designer himself and a man of deep conviction, urged designers that in this changing world, they too must change if they are not to become extinct designosaurs.

Here is a man at the top of his profession – and of design’s best club – decrying “clubbiness” and demanding that the RDIs fulfil the responsibility that goes with the title as well as enjoying the glory.

Meanwhile, over in the Alsation town of Strasbourg, members of the European branding set were striving to set common ethical and best practice standards. The former Packaging & Design Association, now more aptly named the Pan-European Design Association, met to debate issues about contracts, copyright and free-pitching with a view to forming an international code of practice.

No more than a start was made on penning a realistic code, but the sharing of experiences was invaluable – even if it did show the Brits up to be Europe’s worst offenders in free-pitching. France is on the verge of a free-pitching epidemic, delegates heard, but only UK groups are consistently overstepping the mark when touting for work on the Continent. Like the RDIs, members of the PDA enjoy a bit of clubbiness with their peers, but they too are hell- bent on moving the profession on.

Some say that cliques are bad – and they are if they revel in exclusivity and elitism. But if top designers can wield their power to effect real leadership then membership of design’s better clubs begins to take on an important new meaning.

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