Design Council admits it ‘does not communicate well’

Lesley Morris, head of skills at the Design Council, has admitted that the association ‘does not communicate well or engage with the design community properly’.

‘Designers don’t understand what we do, how we do it and what the results are,’ Morris tells Design Week. ‘They continue to feel that we should be doing more with them.

‘We are not a trade association, but designers all seem to want that,’ Morris continues, revealing concerns that the industry is confused about the Design Council’s role.

‘Our remit is to reach business audiences to stimulate demand for design, and to future-proof the industry,’ says Morris.

‘We need to make a strategic decision to talk differently to designers,’ she adds.

Morris’s comments come as British Design Innovation opens a dialogue with the Design Council, with the aim of providing a communication link between the council and the industry. Earlier this month, BDI and Design Council officials met in the first of a series of quarterly meetings, which were initiated by the BDI.

‘The aim of the meetings is to provide feedback from the industry to the Design Council,’ says Gus Desbarats, chairman of BDI South East, who chaired the first meeting. ‘Some of the recommendations that are trickling out of the council, particularly with the Designing Demand guidelines on design engagement, do not seem to be ideal because they are not detailed enough.’

Top Design Council officials including Morris and deputy chief executive David Godber were present at the meeting with the BDI, which Desbarats says he welcomes as a sign that the organisation is taking its contact with the BDI seriously.

‘In practical terms, we are going to get involved with Designing Demand by engaging a couple of people at the BDI with it,’ says Desbarats.

However, Desbarats reserves some criticism for the BDI’s own communication skills, admitting that designers do not fully grasp its function.

He says, ‘The BDI is misunderstood and its role needs to be clarified. It is amazing how distant some design organisations can be from where the rubber meets the road.’

The BDI and the Design Council will meet again in May.

The roles of the design bodies

Design Council – works with Government to ‘futureproof’ the industry by stimulating demand for design services and helping to shape design education

Design Business Association – the trade body for designers from all disciplines, the DBA lobbies Government on behalf of UK design businesses

British Design Innovation – an exchange forum for designers, businesses and academics to trade intellectual property

D&AD – an educational charity that brings design professionals and students together, and runs student and professional awards

Chartered Society of Designers – an international professional body for designers, the CSD has a royal charter, accrediting its members and offering them business services

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