Would that institutions acted like individuals

A poster designed by Vince Frost is going out to British Design and Art Direction members this week explaining the association’s plans to fulfill its commitment to college education. As an educational charity, D&AD is required to devote time and resources to education and the six-point plan outlined last year (DW 24 November), will account for a quarter of the total budget, says D&AD director David Kester.

Two of those initiatives directly involve practitioners: the five-day programme to bring college tutors up to speed on real-world issues; and the revived design workshops, which include a portfolio surgery and five evening visits to consultancies for a selected student group.

It’s very hands-on, as was the recent design management project organised by Paul King of M&K with students from Central St Martin’s (DW 26 April). Though ostensibly carried out in the name of the Chartered Society of Designers, that project would almost certainly have floundered had it not been for King’s personal commitment in terms of time, contacts and cash. Even when times are tough, there is considerable goodwill among creative folk to help young designers. And it’s great that many current initiatives aim specifically to raise creative standards.

But we hear much less positive things about the institutions. We’re told of projects denied Government cash through the Design Council’s education fund, even after the organisers have been primed by the council to apply for it. Other sagas claim lack of support from design’s official bodies for projects initiated in the understanding support would be there. Even more damning, we hear horror stories from colleges where students’ needs appear of little concern to administrators hooked into bottom-line thinking, and dissent is actively discouraged.

Would that the enthusiasm and generosity with which many designers support education – usually for free – rubbed off a bit more on the institutions that benefit from that commitment. It’s the students – and design’s future – who suffer while current attitudes prevail.

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