Source: Alison’s Eyes
The call comes in a white paper, published by network MBC Group, which says a quality mark would “uphold consistent standards in a marketplace where anyone with a computer can brand themselves a ‘designer’.”
The paper proposes one solution could be a “single, iconic design quality mark which is broadly accepted as a marker of standards throughout the industry”.
It suggests that this could co-ordinate “fragmented” industry bodies; level the playing field for smaller designers who might not be able to buy into existing registers; and improve agency/client expectations.
But the authors admit “challenges” in creating this scheme, most fundamentally in “who awards and polices these new standards, and how practical is this in such a fragmented sector?” They say they are aiming to “provoke a conversation” about the proposal rather than offer anything prescriptive.
The paper has been welcomed by the Design Council, whose CEO John Mathers says: “Advances in technology are making it easier and easier for almost anyone to claim to have design skills and it is vital to uphold standards.
“The ‘Quality by Design’ white paper has prompted a debate on how we can uphold standards for the benefit of the UK and the design industry. We’re very keen to hear people’s views on the proposals, whether pro or anti, and how they would like us to take this forward. It is important to get it right and protect good designers without adding any burdensome bureaucracy.”
APDIG chair Barry Sheerman also welcomes the debate, saying: “You need to be visible to attract support financially. You need to prove why you matter.
“Other industries in the UK are more visible (for example the car industry) and that is why they get government backing, because the role they play in the economy is there for all to see. Design is less visible, but British design is valued world-wide.”
He adds: “The white paper’s call for a professional quality mark would change perceptions and help an industry which is so important to our economy and which is growing all the time.”
However, the quality mark proposal has met with a mixed reaction from designers.
Double G Studios founder Grant Gilbert says: “I don’t think people are crying out for a mark, but much would depend on how easily it would be given out: do you pay money and get a mark or are you actually awarded a mark for the work that you create?”
True North managing director Martin Carr says: “Obviously whether this kind of initiative would work would depend on the criteria for participation. The theory is absolutely sound if it creates a shortlist of quality for clients – but awarding this would depend on whose say so?”
He adds: “As a cynical Northerner I would still be worried: everyone involved would have to prioritise and the amount of effort involved in breaking down all the different agendas suggests that this has no chance of working in practice.”
Paul Bailey, co-founder of 1977 Design, says: “There are pros and cons. One of the great things about the design industry is that anyone, a young go-getter, can start up a design business – yet one of the bad things is precisely that anyone can start up a design business and call themselves a graphic designer. In architecture you have to be registered with the RIBA – we don’t have that in design.”
He adds: “Trying to put loads of structures in place for a fluid, ever-changing industry is a massive problem. It’s like trying to get a load of frogs into a box – they just keep jumping out. That is probably the biggest issue but then again is it? We want to be a dynamic industry, we want to keep changing, that’s why it’s so vibrant and so successful – so would putting limitations on it actually hinder the creative industries because part of our vitality is this dynamism?”
You can read the Quality by Design white paper in full here.