UK groups slow to back World Industrial Design Day

World Industrial Design Day 2009 is billed by organiser The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design as a ‘celebration’, ‘to raise awareness about the benefits of industrial design in improving our quality of life’.

The initiative, on 29 June, will see a network of events held around the globe, including a regional exchange event in Santiago, Chile, and a special screening of Gary Hustwit’s industrial design film Objectified in ICSID’s hometown of Montreal, Canada. In the UK it will be marked by a webcast from Berkshire-based group Industrial Design Consultancy titled Global Markets, Local Solutions.

But as Martin Darbyshire, ICSID board member and president and chief executive of product design consultancy Tangerine, notes, there is marked lack of activity around the day in the UK compared with other areas such as the US, the Far East or South America.

The key point about World Industrial Design Day is that it is intended as a global umbrella initiative for national design networks and consultancies to host their own events under. Apart from organising a poster competition to highlight the day, ICSID mostly holds off from imposing its own events on countries, meaning any interest in the day has to come from the grassroots up.

Darbyshire puts the lack of activity in the UK down to two factors. The first is that professional organisations and institutions in the UK have yet to sign up to it, although he adds that ICSID has a good relationship with bodies such as the Design Council, the Design Business Association and the Chartered Society of Designers.

The second is that there is less need to promote industrial design in a more mature economy such as the UK than in more developing economies. He says,

‘Countries in Asia, as you might expect, are very passionate about the day, as they are in South America. In countries such as Chile, Brazil and Mexico they are very interested in pursuing design on a social basis, not just commercially.’

Whereas in the UK it appears most industrial designers are too busy running successful consultancies to either have time to devote to such an initiative, or really to need to. Adam White, director of Factory Design, says, ‘Hopefully, the reason there’s not much take-up in the UK is that everyone is too busy doing work.’ He also makes the point that the industrial design scene in the UK is confident enough not to need the festival’s fillip. ‘Most UK consultancies are comfortable with the idea of being a global practitioner. And if you’re doing good work, no matter how big you are, you can’t help but enter a global market,’ says White.

Nigel Goode, founding director of Priestman Goode, agrees, saying, ‘London in particular is the centre of a lot of creative activity – the world comes here to get its design.’ He adds, ‘It’s definitely the case that UK industrial design is a global enterprise. Few people realise that so many great products have British designers.’
But both White and Goode welcome the idea of celebrating World Industrial Design Day further in the UK. Goode says, ‘Industrial design in the UK is going through a transitional stage at the moment. There’s been a blurring of the boundaries – a lot of what we do touches on environments, interiors and architecture. I think maybe this new definition could be raised as an issue as part of the day.’

He adds, ‘Places like the Design Museum and the Science Museum would be natural showcases for activities. For example, maybe the Design Museum could open its doors for free for a day – it would be a good way to focus on things in the UK.’

Maybe next year?

This year’s world design day events:

  • A ceremony in Essen, Germany, to honour the winners of the Red Dot Product Design Awards
  • The Reuse: Muestra de productos disenados con materiales reutilizados exhibition in Paso, Colombia
  • A Metro ride and Pekka Kucha in Helsinki, Finland

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