Heading north in the Quiet Zone of the 18.30 out of London Euston is an ideal setting for reflecting on the days activities. I was on my way back to Kendal after attending the British Design Summer Reception at the House of Lords.
Organised by the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group, it brought together many leading and influential designers, along with MPs, members of the Lords, journalists and representatives from the various organisations that sponsored the tables. Being on the Crafts Council table, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself seated between Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent and Michelle Ogundehin, editor of Elle Decoration.
Speeches by both Sir John Sorrell and Lord Bichard championed British design, and stressed the need for a strong united voice to convince Parliament that design is more than just making things look pretty, but something that should be at the core of business thinking.
Apparently the Financial sector spent £92 million lobbying the government last year and that has appeared to have paid off. Design doesn’t have that sort of money, so we are going to have to use some of our creative thinking if we want to be heard.
However, it seems to me that 'design' is one of those shape shifting words with a different definition according to the context in which it is used.
My definition is something along the lines of 'the creative application of materials and/or processes.' That's probably over simplistic, but to make an impact surely that's the sort of definition required, as it not only covers making stuff, but can be applied to systems and services.
And it's inclusive, so the Crafts Council shouldn't feel left out.
OK, so we can dress that up with great examples, lots of lovely images, but what are we asking for?
For me it would be some joined up thinking in government, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer doesn't stand at the dispatch box going on about how he “want(s) the words: Made in Britain, Created in Britain, Designed in Britain, Invented in Britain to drive our nation forward. A Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers" to be the battle cry that will save the economy, when down the road Education are undermining or should that be destroying Design and Technology in schools. Where do they think the next generation of makers and creative thinkers are going to come from?
And I would also ask that there should be far more support for research that brings together art and science. There are so many great examples where collaboration has benefitted both camps.
Vince Cable has been busy with his Made by Britain and Make it in Great Britain campaigns, with an exhibition starting in London’s Science Museum on the 24th of July. But as Michelle Ogundehin points out in her blog, why doesn’t the government recognize the central role that design plays in the success of companies like Apple, Dyson etc etc? And ‘why is it taking government so long to catch on when the UK’s design sector could be such a spur to economic growth?’
A poorly advertised exhibition in the Science Museum is not enough, what we need is a new Festival of Britain, an event that will clearly demonstrate the wealth of great design that we have in the UK, demonstrate how companies will benefit by embedding design thinking into their core activities, demonstrate to parents that Art and Design are relevant subjects for their children to choose at school and if the government would put some money into apprenticeships, give some disaffected young people a place in society. (That last bit might be going too far, but we can dream…)