It is a rare moment when the Government opens its ears to design’s potential to change things for the better. Prime Minister Tony Blair espoused the creative industries, in a celebratory sense, in the late 1990s, but it has taken the workaday attitude of his cohort, Chancellor Gordon Brown, to identify what design can really do to improve business performance and sharpen the UK’s competitive edge.
The Cox Review spells out how this might be achieved. There will be few surprises for industry watchers, as Sir George Cox has sensibly chosen to build largely on what already exists, in his review of the creative industries. He calls, for example, for the extension of the Design for Business scheme, initiated by the Design Council – of which he is chairman – to take in all small- to medium-sized businesses across the country. Putting designers into businesses is a proven way of effecting a change in attitude that enhances overall performance. He also endorses the work already being progressed by the Sector Skills Council.
This approach means the Cox Review can’t be totally lost, as so many Government reviews have been. But the extent to which Brown will take it to heart remains to be seen. In a speech at the Advancing Enterprise Conference last Friday, and again in Monday’s Pre-Budget speech, he said Cox’s recommendations will be taken forward, but, as yet, there is no mention of funding to progress them.
We know that Regional Development Agencies will play a huge part in delivering those recommendations that the Government sees fit to adopt. We also know that a new London design centre will form a hub for those activities, but how this will be achieved has yet to be revealed.
Cox makes it very clear that it is not solely down to the Government to make the recommendations work – businesses need to play their part. With so much to gain, we must look to design businesses to take a lead in this.
Lynda Relph-Knight, editor