How many bodies does the South West really need?

Designed in Devon, a regional forum that aims to build the profile of design in the county and hopes to develop a Devon Design Week, launches in Exeter tonight.

Designed in Devon, a regional forum that aims to build the profile of design in the county and hopes to develop a Devon Design Week, launches in Exeter tonight (28 February).

DiD joins the Cornwall Design Forum and the South West Design Forum in promoting design in the South West of England. Three other bodies already operate in the larger, West of England region (see box below).

Having six organisations serving a region throws open the question of how many bodies are needed to support the area and whether designers are best served by a plethora of bodies, or if a single organisation could deliver a more cohesive approach and economies of scale.

DiD is chaired by Tim Burley, director of Exmouth-based group Red Rocket. Burley is confident that a regionally diverse model is the most effective.

‘We need both a strong regional voice, through the South West Design Forum, and focused local, county-level teams. The South West is a relatively dispersed and diverse geographical area and it’s best to have local people representing each aspect of the region,’ says Burley .

SWDF chairman Phil Gendall concurs. He believes the launch of DiD is ‘great news for the South West, and adds real strength to our regional voice’. He denies there are too many organisations serving the area.

‘We believe quite passionately that if you’re going to build a network it has to be relevant to individual designers at a local level,’ says Gendall. He sees the role of SWDF as an executive body, sharing best practice with the chairmen of the local groups and acting as a central access point for Regional Development Agencies and other Government bodies.

‘We acknowledged early on that to get meaningful results, things have to happen regularly at the local level not twice a year at a regional level,’ says Gendall.

DiD launches with 20 members and expects to have 100 members within 12 months. According to Burley, the organisation’s first objective is to launch a website and undertake research about the number and type of designers working in the county. Regular networking events will be held and in the longer term, a Devon Design Week is also planned, in a similar vein to the Cornwall Design Week.

‘We aim to become the credible voice of design in Devon,’ says Burley, ‘and would love to have a design week that acts as a focal point for design buyers in the county.’

The concept for the forum was the brainchild of Business Link Devon & Cornwall design innovation mentor Kathryn Hughes, who hopes the initiative will also help to grow the market for design in the county.

‘Most businesses in Devon are small- or medium-sized and don’t buy design, and don’t always understand the benefits – they see it as a cost. Hopefully, DiD will help champion design in this sector,’ Hughes says.

DiD’s visual identity was created by Exmouth designer Tim Mann, who was appointed to the project following a design competition.

To find out more about DiD contact or visit the South West Design Forum website,

• Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Design Forum, established five years ago
• Cornwall Design Forum, launched in November 2004
• Design in Devon, launched February 2007
• Somerset Design Enterprise Network, launched three years ago
• South West Design Forum, launched six years ago, acts as an executive body to all five local agencies
• West of England Design Forum, launched March 2006, for designers in Bristol, Bath, Gloucester and North Somerset

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