Sebastian Conran, Virgin Atlantic Airways head of design Joe Ferry, and Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre director Professor Jeremy Myerson are among seven new recruits to the Design Council.
Design Council chairman Sir Michael Bichard, Innovation Secretary John Denham and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham made the appointments in the new year to help ‘bring the council back up to its full complement of members’, according to Bichard.
In the past two or three years, members including Paul Priestman and Barclays’ brand and UK banking marketing director Jim Hytner have stood down from the board.
Bichard hopes that the new recruits will tackle ‘an A-list of priorities’ that the Design Council set itself in last November’s Good Design Plan. Goals include rolling out the Designing Demand programme to 6500 small businesses across the UK, and deploying £200 000 of public funds to expand the initiative into the public sector over the next two years.
‘Jeremy Myerson’s involvement with the NHS Design Bugs Out scheme, along with his work at the Helen Hamlyn Centre, will make him a strong education and public services presence for us,’ says Bichard.
Bichard expects that new board member Eddie Obeng, founder of Pentacle Virtual Business School, will provide a leading voice on innovation during the economic downturn.
‘We must look for innovative opportunities provided by the recession, rather than battoning down against it,’ says Bichard.
The council will meet about seven times a year to discuss the Design Council’s strategic direction and to monitor its use of public funds.
Bichard says, ‘We were trying to get a good mix of experience to deal with the big issues – Sebastian [Conran], Martin [Temple] and Joe [Ferry] are all strong on business, while [Ferry] also offers services design expertise.’
The Design Council advertised for the new council members through an open invitation in a national newspaper, although Ferry told Design Week that it approached him directly to apply for the unpaid position.
He says, ‘[The appointment] will keep my finger on the pulse of the design industry and the challenges it is facing, and Virgin supports the move as it shows that the company is employing people that the Design Council would want on its board.’
Sophie Thomas, the co-founder of Thomas Matthews and of Three Trees Don’t Make A Forest, a website and blog that campaigns for sustainable design, has also been appointed to the board. ‘Sustainability will be very important over the next year,’ says Bichard.
The appointments nearly double the size of the Design Council board, but Bichard still hopes to appoint ‘one or two more’ council members.
Science Minister Lord Drayson used the occasion of the new appointments to make his first public comments on design since he joined the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in October. He names the Design Council as a ‘key partner in delivering the Government’s innovation agenda’.
‘The high calibre of these new council members is testament to this country’s world-class, internationally recognised design sector,’ adds Drayson.
Complete Design Council line-up:
• Sebastian Conran, managing director, Studio Conran
• Joe Ferry, head of design, Virgin Atlantic Airways
• Professor Alan Livingston CBE, Rector of University College Falmouth
• Professor Jeremy Myerson, director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art
• Professor Eddie Obeng, director of learning, Pentacle Virtual Business School
• Martin Temple CBE, chairman of the Engineering Employers Federation
• Sophie Thomas, co-founder of Thomas Matthews
The new members will join Jonathan Kestenbaum, Jonathan Sands, Peter Williams, Richard Williams, Bonnie Dean, Chris Wise, Geoff Kirk and Janet Walker on the board, which is chaired by Sir Michael Bichard