One of the highlights of the week was seeing Michael Peters at the Podge lunch yesterday. It says so much about the character of a man who was one of the founders of the design industry as we know it that he should make such a supreme effort to attend one of design’s more prestigious annual networking events not much more than a year after he suffered a couple of strokes.
Michael’s resilience against the odds – and the warm welcome he received from his peers – is testament to the spirit of the design community. Generous and caring to a fault, we in design know how to acknowledge greatness – in his case in setting creative standards, building teams and evolving new business models – but nor are we afraid to give someone a hug when they need it, however big a competitor they may be.
Anyone who, like me, has worked outside design, will know that’s something of a rarity and a point of difference for our community. It should be cherished as a legacy from those all-important founders.
Talking of Podge, for those who don’t know it is an annual get-together of some 160 design bosses and top creatives organised by the inimitable Phil Jones of Real Time Consultancy and a team including his wife Babs and daughter Clare. Stories are swopped and lives are changed for the better over a ‘lunch’ at the Dover Street Arts Club in London in a session that goes on – and on.
Each year a consultancy volunteers to handle the graphics for the event – print, bottle labels, posters, place names, the website and so on. For this year, remarkably, the offer came from a client – marketing man Tom Foulkes, then of property group Land Securities – who cheekily put forward his rostered groups for the job. He then left Land Securities a few months later to join consulting engineer Buro Happold. That he had to be recalled by the Podge organisers earlier this year to help out with his former design teams says a lot about the special bond between creative groups and good clients that underpins the best work and a fun process.
Key players from a handful of design bodies were at Podge, a reminder that design representation is again coming under scrutiny. Martin Temple’s Government-backed review of the Design Council is throwing up questions that might be side issues to his main task, but are a timely prompt for design to rethink how it presents itself not just within the community, but to the world beyond.
This is a debate that should – and will – continue. Design is, after all, one of the UK’s success stories, but the industry so easily undersells itself. I welcome your views on what is required and how it might be achieved.