What key characteristic will ensure the success of the UK design industry?

‘This week’s Design Council summit asks the question “Who do we think we are?” and attempts to define the national characteristics that can drive British economic growth. What do you think is the key characteristic that can ensure the success of the UK design industry?’

Paul Priestman

‘”Lateral thinking”. The UK has a great heritage of leading design on a global scale, whether in product, transport, graphics or furniture design. I think one of the reasons for this is our ability to think laterally and the cross-pollination of disciplines. We excel in producing good ideas and bringing innovation across sectors. Events like the Design Summit are a great initiative, but it’s important to ensure they’re targeted at the right audience. Designers already understand the value of design. The success of the industry relies not on preaching to the converted, but on demonstrating the inherent value that design can add to industry, something that is especially important given the current economic climate.’

Paul Priestman, co-founder, Priestman Goode

Wayne Hemingway

“For me it’s about embracing risk and banishing fear – just getting on with it and seeing where it takes us. It’s about the punk spirit – being both challenging and fun. British design has that disruptive, maverick edge that communicates and creates a real point of difference. Dyson gets it – the long process of prototyping allowed him to radically rethink the vacuum cleaner, developing a world beating product. If British designers continue to think fearlessly, we’ll continue to be internationally respected.”

Wayne Hemingway, partner, Hemingway Design

Robin Levien

‘Britain is a group of small wet islands high up in the northern hemisphere. To live here requires a high level of tolerance and a good sense of humour. These are the characteristics that will ensure the ongoing success of our design industry and many others.’

Robin Levien, founder, Studio Levien

Paul Bailey

‘If we are looking for the one, key characteristic to ensure future success then we should look to our past to see where our strengths lie. It would be easy to cite Britain’s unrivaled track record of innovation through design. Our great inventors, discoverers and entrepreneurs who had the ability to look at a problem, or opportunity, and innovate for it. A willingness to try something new, take risks, have great ideas. However, we all know that it’s not really about having the ideas, it is about developing those ideas and actually making them happen. Look through the UK’s history and the people who made their mark are those who were initially branded crazy for their new designs, inventions or working methods, but who wouldn’t listen to the detractors. Those who had the self-belief and the drive to actually make it happen, to see something through to the end, to make an idea a reality. What is the key characteristic that can ensure the success of the UK design industry? Our very British tenacity (or pigheadedness), that’s what.’

Paul Bailey, partner, 1977 Design

Michael Smith

‘I’ve never believed that a national border (even one as wide as the North Sea) can contain a characteristic. That just seems like lazy stereotyping. If we are different it’s because we constantly assimilate and celebrate difference. Accepting that, welcoming new ideas and adapting to change is how we will thrive (in design and all other areas). We need to stop looking back, keeping calm and carrying on. We need to learn from our history not live in it.’

Michael Smith, director, Cog Design

Roger Proctor

As a nation we are very good at thinking beyond and outside of the given scope of a problem. This characteristic allows us to be inventive, challenging and so break exciting new ground. Designers are excellent at being opportunists because so often they develop real vision. The nation, but particularly the financial sector, needs to truly support and promote a culture of risk – to truly dare as designers so often do.’

Roger Proctor, managing director, Proctor & Stevenson

Hide Comments (5)Show Comments (5)
  • LaMorena, London, uk November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Where are the contributions by female designers who imake a significant contribution to the UK’s Design industries?

    Paying more than lip service to the contribution of diversity – particularly visual representation of so called ‘minority communities’

    I would like to see a National Image Library that is aspirational and positive for all of the UK communities.


  • Caroline Robinson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Again, asking why does DW not look further a field and at it’s diverse readership for commentary?

    I doubt that one sector of humanity in the UK can talk about a whole industry.

  • emily November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I couldn’t help but giggle at the similarity of the people in the pictures. I think Wayne Hemingway is brill and a genuine authority…but so is the other half of Hemingway Partnerships.

    I’m curious to know who you did ask that didn’t respond?

  • robin levien November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I love the observation of how similar looking we are. We should put our heads together and make complete arses of ourselves.

  • Gary November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Baldness. Thats the key characteristic clearly.

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