What will John Mathers bring to the Design Council?

When former Design Council chief executive David Kester announced his resignation from the role in April, he left the organisation in a very interesting position.

John Mathers

The Design Council had changed hugely from the organisation Kester had joined nine years previously.

From Government-funded quango, the Design Council has shifted to become an independent charity which, through its merger with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, has brought architecture under its wing as well.

And physically the organisation has moved too, leaving its Bow Street HQ to take up new offices in Islington’s Angel Building.

And to take it forward in this new iteration, the Design Council has selected as its new chief executive John Mathers – who has a wealth of experience leading top-level design consultancies.

Mathers has, over the last 30 years, held senior roles at Holmes & Marchant, Blue Marlin, Fitch and Enterprise IG. He has also worked client side, as head of brand at Safeway.

He is a man who understands the day-to-day issues and struggles of running a consultancy, and this appointment sends a very clear message to those who occasionally complain that the Design Council is disconnected from the industry it represents.

And Mathers has experience as a design industry administrator as well, serving as president of the Design Business Association for an unprecedented three years.

Where he might be lacking in experience is in the top-level negotiations with Government departments that the Design Council now specialises in.

He also presumably has a lot to learn about his new Design Council stablemate Cabe, which has also just made two senior appointments – with David Waterhouse joining as head of programmes and Alan Thompson as head of design review.

Mathers will be working for the Design Council for one-day-a-week initially, as chief operating officer Madeline Denmead, who has been running the organisation in the interim, guides him into the new role.

He will go full-time at the end of October, at which stage Design Week will be speaking to him about his experiences so far and his vision for the future of the Design Council.

Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • Tim November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    He won’t bring anything! He managed to run Holmes & Marchant into the ground, he also knows nothing about design!

  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely

    Several years ago Kester, was keen to spin-out the DC in-house service design department, RED, but foiled when all staff resigned from it.

    A bit later, the DC made another attempt to set up an in-house Design Services Studio, but were thwarted due to their Quango and government funding position.

    So the Mathers appointment is an interesting & suspicious one in that context.

    DC is now distanced from Gov, so will JM use it as a platform to support the design sector in a way that the DC has failed to do to date?

    Or will he turn it into a far more commercial organisation with some unavoidable direct competition against the design consultancy sector?

    I suspect the DBA will shortly be considering a move up the road to the Angel

    Which might just leave the CSD standing up for the profession.

    Watch this space and let the chess game unfold

  • Jean Clarke November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    There will be others like him. He will not go if you make him. There will be others who keep to the point only when they are asked to.

  • N November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am


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