Top designer in call for action over bad design

Former Pentagram partner Kenneth Grange is calling for British designers to be as willing as their French cousins to make a stand and fight on issues they care about.

Speaking at the Meeting Of Minds event at the British Museum in London last night, Grange said, ‘Instead of us seeing the same work regurgitated time and again, designers should be trying to move design on’.

He added, ‘If we think something is terrible then we should remember that we have the skills to make changes.’

Grange cited the humble London Underground turnstile, saying he is distraught at the way such an outstanding piece of product design is becoming increasingly ‘defaced’ by branding.

‘I say we rise up en masse, head to the station and get things sorted,’ said Grange.

The fourth Meeting of Minds debate asked a panel, comprising Grange, Martin Lambie-Nairn, Michael Wolff and Harry Pearce, ‘How can design not only meet a client’s commercial objectives, but also enhance our lives and the culture around us?’.

The nature of design was a key element in the discussion. Lambie-Nairn caused controversy by saying, ‘Design is a very generic term that covers a very wide mix of crafts. I see design as a job, not a code by which to live my life.’

He said sometimes designers should be brave enough to walk away from clients who are offering them large sums of money if the opportunities might end in the design execution being below par.

However, Michael Peters, interjecting from the audience, said, ‘It would be wrong to leave clients who are offering work, not for the money’s sake but because that would be a missed opportunity to influence them and show them the benefit to their businesses of making use of good design and creative teams.’

Peters added, ‘Designers have a responsibility to their clients to try to help them.’

Wolff argued that designers were more than ‘servants of clients’, as Lambie-Nairn suggested, and said ‘Designers, as well as clients, can be inspirational’, citing that one of the most influential examples of design is the Technology Education Design conferences.

The diversity of debate among the speakers proved that there is no easy answer to the question of whether design should have a broader impact on the cultural sphere.

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  • Ciaran Horrex November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Though I wasn’t there, from the article it seems like a lot of the same issues being brought up. The designer client relationship is as we know a very symbiotic relationship, as designers we are very much aware of the clients needs and how they operate. It is not the same for the client, I find most clients and most people are ignorant to what we do and ultimately who we are as a result. An issue I’m currently interested in is the education of clients in the ‘nature of design’ as well as the current separation of ‘art’ and what art means from graphic design.

    If the clients can be educated into ‘the why’ of what we do perhaps they will be better able to make decisions that influence ultimately what we are tasked with doing.

  • Chris Gough November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Kenneth Grange is absolutely right to say that we are surrounded by dreadful design and that designers should stop being so weedy. (If I may paraphrase him…). Lambie-Nairn says ‘it’s just a job’ – and it shows, Marty-boy, it shows. How did we end up in such a mess, with supposedly creative people habitually churning out dross? One culprit is education – the once-great British art schools have turned into bland corporatised institutions, staffed by ‘if you can’t do, teach’ full-timers instead of part-time teachers who actually work in the real world. The students are victims of a dumbed-down system, taught to use a Mac, but not their brains.
    The second culprit is the culture of managerialism. The enemy within is the account handler; whilst a great account handler is a tremendous ally, creating the environment in which creatives can do their best work, they are few and far between – instead we get box-ticking client pleasers whose idea of writing a brief is a shopping list, with little notion of how to develop and present a strategy, let alone sell creative work. “Super work, but the client says…”. Their counterparts on the client side are ‘marketing executives’ and their like, all too often junior management drones who’ve proved to be useless elsewhere and get shunted into a ‘harmless’ role. Trouble is they insist on wanting to make decisions, usually the wrong ones. And your friendly account handler isn’t about to say “don’t be so stupid”…
    Don’t get me wrong; I love clients – a great client helps you do great work. But it’s part of our job to help them be great – and if that means banging heads together, so be it.
    Good design takes balls and brains, not just aesthetic sensibillity, slick software and smooth administration. So I’m with Kenneth Grange here – “aux barricades!”

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