If you think any link between Labour’s landslide victory in the polls and design’s potential to be a national force is tenuous then just consider for a moment the way the socialist victory was won.
For a start, Tony Blair has displayed strong leadership consistently throughout the campaign, and the conviction and commitment that came through in his Sedgefield speech is something we’re not used to hearing from politicians. If design could muster such a person – or team – to steer its course and push its cause, it might not find itself so easily discounted as an industry.
Then there’s the fact that Labour set out with as clear a vision as you can expect in a General Election. One of its main strengths was its ability to detach itself from the excesses of the past and start again with a fairly clean sheet. If designers could do this, if they could change external perception of the industry and boost their own creativity by looking at each job afresh, then they really would have something to offer clients. All it takes is the will to do it.
But you can’t discount as a key factor the groundswell of feeling among the populace for change. Without it, Labour – and the Liberal Democrats – might not have enjoyed such a massive swing in support across the country.
That desire for change isn’t just limited to politics. The design industry patently needs it: witness the review of representation in the design sector announced last week (DW 2 May) and the number of realignments going on within consultancies of all disciplines. But surely so do clients and consumers of design. Too many designers are churning out more of the same or trying too hard to please, rather than presenting their public with first-rate alternatives in thinking and visual approach.
Labour has its work cut out to sustain its night of triumph with policies that make the desired difference. But it has at least won the chance to prove it can. Design should scrutinise the party’s success for tips to help it to show the country what it’s worth.