I came from the world of architecture – a clearly defined sector delineated by protection of title, ie you can’t call yourself an architect unless you’ve gone through the proper education process and are recognised by the Architects Registration Board.
The design sector, on the other hand, is wide-ranging, amorphous, undefinable. Building a new airline seat? You’re a designer. Developing a suite of graphics? You’re a designer. Working with a company or organisation to completely reappraise the way it does business? Yep – you’re a designer.
In one way, of course, this is brilliant – ‘design’ as a discipline is wholly outward-facing and touches on pretty much everything we do. For us at Design Week this can mean writing about a new book cover in the morning and a plan to redesign hospital A&E departments in the afternoon.
But the failure of Government and other organisations to recognise an understand design is not only hugely frustrating but potentially damaging to the industry itself.
So you can end up with situations like the recent briefing I went to for the new Government’s new Creative Solutions Framework.
I was invited, alongside representatives from the marketing, advertising and PR press, as Cabinet Office unveiled the 30 companies who will be tasked with doing Government’s creative work – not a single design consultancy among them.
When I asked why there weren’t any design consultancies I was initially met with blank looks – it was as though the Government commissioners hadn’t even considered using design.
So on the surface, new Government proposals to recategorise design and the creative industries should be welcomed – the current classifications are clearly not having the desired effect.
But there are worrying signs here. Not only is Craft being dropped as a classification, but Design is set to lose its status as a single classification – being merged with Designer Fashion.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport says this is due to flaws in the current system (and the underlying Standard Industrial Classifications) which make it impossible to separate design and fashion from each other.
But lumping the two together can’t be the solution. Nor can failing to properly define the breadth and impact of the design industry.
DCMS consultation on the proposals is open until 14 June, and we urge the design industry to take part.