Jeremy Myerson, of London’s Royal College of Art, has come down heavily against universities carrying out commercial design work.
Myerson, director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre and Professor of Design Studies at the RCA, says, ‘The view of the RCA is that we shouldn’t compete with our own graduates or with the employees of those graduates. But we should do research [that improves lives and informs commercial ventures].’
Myerson was speaking on Wednesday at the work-in-progress exposé of The Sound of North: Wayfinding for Visually Impaired People, a research study by RCA research associate David Sweeney, which is funded by the HHC and the Audi Design Foundation.
The effect of universities offering commercial ‘in-house’ design services has been the subject of mounting controversy among product design professionals, who aired their concerns in a letter published in Design Week last month.
Signed by 19 designers from across the UK, the letter claimed that some academic institutions are undercutting design professionals on price, as well as misappropriating public funding intended for research.
Speaking to Design Week last month, Pearson Matthews founder and letter signatory Mike Pearson criticised universities for leveraging an unfair advantage over consultancies that pay higher overheads.
Pearson cited the damaging effects of ‘poorly delivered product design’ on the industry as a whole, and argued that those clients who have been burned by bad experiences with inexperienced university design consultancies ‘are beginning to complain that design doesn’t work, which is the wrong conclusion to draw’.
Lack of investment in design education has also been blamed for the rising number of universities generating their own revenue streams.
The Design Council’s head of skills Lesley Morris has called for ‘definitions and guidelines’ to be drawn up between universities and professional design bodies, in order make things clearer to potential clients.