The challenge remains for design bodies in new year

So, with one of design’s great mysteries solved before Big Ben failed to chime in 2003 – that of the Design Council succession (DW 19 December 2002) – we still await the outcome of two other contests. Who will become the Design Museum’s first Designer of the Year? And who will lead the Design Business Association into what is set to be yet another challenging year for the industry?

It will be interesting to see who takes the Design Museum title and £25 000 cash prize, the judges’ choice setting the tone for the new award and establishing its effectiveness as a beacon for great design. Will museum director Alice Rawsthorn and her cohorts pick an established star such as Ron Arad or Jasper Morrison or will a different set of criteria prevail?

Let’s hope so, for though the likes of Arad and Morrison are admirable candidates, they are not in need of media attention. A less obvious victor could re-engage public interest in design, and, if a team takes the prize, a deeper understanding of the design process.The shortlist to be announced today should give some clues.

Meanwhile, the DBA saga drags on to the frustration of all concerned, way beyond December’s annual general meeting when the new chief executive was to be named. With no announcement due, DBA members stayed away, making the AGM a rather small, select gathering, which is a shame, given the huge achievements acting chief executive Roger Battersbee and his tiny team have made through events such as Meltdown and the 2002 International Design Effectiveness Awards. We are told the announcement will come in the next few days – hopefully, the successful candidate won’t have to serve a long notice period before joining.

A better example has been set by the Design Council, which named its new chief executive according to plan and which, by appointing British Design & Art Direction chief executive David Kester, has ensured a future based on campaigning and creative thinking, given his illustrious track record.

Of course, Kester’s job move puts pressure on D&AD. It will be hard pressed to replace him with someone of equal energy, commitment and stature, but D&AD chairman Anthony Simonds-Gooding is a past master at spotting talent and we can expect a quick result. And don’t be surprised if Simonds-Gooding introduces a new name to design, injecting fresh blood into the industry’s leadership.

All this change in design officialdom can only be good, shaking up the industry and hopefully extending its influence. To date D&AD has provided the model for best practice. Long may that continue, and with Kester at the Design Council let’s hope it extends its interest in design.

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