The London design community is always a bit aghast to find that creative talent can and does thrive north of Watford. And the surprise was obviously a pleasant one for Malcolm Garrett, when he discovered the talents of Shed and Union North across the River Mersey from his native Cheshire (see Feature, page 20). It wouldn’t have been easy for him to have stayed so close to home when he set out as a young designer in the Seventies.
But Shed isn’t the only regional design group to make the grade. The Chase in Manchester, Elmwood in Leeds, Graven Images et al in Glasgow and product designers Julian Brown and Kinnear Dufort in Bristol are among design’s award-winning stalwarts.
Add to this list groups long-established for good work such as Marketplace in Abingdon, BIB in Reading, Atkinson Design and Jones Garrard in Leicester and members of Edinburgh’s Tayburn Group and you start to paint a picture of a creative Britain outside the bounds of Greater London.
That’s a dozen or so in the top league, which isn’t that impressive when you consider the number of London groups revered by their peers throughout the country. The capital boasts a critical mass which helps fuel design’s claim to be an industry and adds weight to its influence.
There are, no doubt, other groups – and individuals – out there with talent, but they tend to keep quiet about themselves. But others have found ways to have a presence. Groups like Elmwood and Graven Images are known as much for the passion and personality of their leaders as for their creative skills, while Shed grabbed Garrett’s attention through its prowess at winning awards.
Design Week is often accused of favouring London groups. That isn’t true. But we don’t hear often enough from good people who have set up shop elsewhere, despite our efforts to find them. Communication is a two-way thing, remember, so pick up the phone.