Gordon Brown is putting his mouth where the money is and backing design once more. The Chancellor’s decision to speak at this year’s New Designers graduate show at London’s Business Design Centre indicates that his faith in it as a generator for economic growth didn’t end with the Cox Review.
Brown has, in the past, promoted design as a major force for the future, as the UK seeks to fight off economic challenges from emerging nations, such as China and India. ‘Ideas’, ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ pepper his forthright speeches about design’s vital role.
Students and young designers have been singled out – not least in the Cox Review – as key to that notion, so it makes sense for the Chancellor to be giving his time to that audience.
Brown’s keenness on design comes as the industry is going through a protracted state of flux. Design Week’s 2006 Top 100 consultancy survey indicated how erratic financial performance has been and, with a fifth of the 100 independent groups listed being chart virgins, how changeable things are. But some developments override these year-on-year blips.
Among these has been design’s massive growth outside London. New Designers graduates might once have vied for what would have been considered ‘plum’ jobs with consultancies in the capital, but many of the best would now be equally proud to work in, say, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow or Bristol.
That move has become ‘official’ through initiatives such as the proposed Design Forum for Wales, supported by Design Wales, Scotland’s Six Cities Design Festival, funded by the Scottish Executive, and the 2007 Designs of the Time scheme for Newcastle/Gateshead, backed by the Design Council and One North East.
To inform his commitment to design, Brown needs to take part in regional events, like next week’s Cardiff Design Festival. Whether as Chancellor or as Prime Minister-in-waiting, his continued support is most welcome.
Lynda Relph-Knight, editor