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Register now for 'Design & Design Values' - an informative programme for all those interested in the future of design

This post is submitted by Lucy Wills, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)

Design & Design Values

A series of free to attend debates and facilitated design led workshop activities in October and November, led by Lucy Wills FRSA and hosted by the Design Special Interest Group.

UK PLC has a deeply vested interest in design as a source of competitiveness and a tool for innovation. So it is of grave concern that aspects of ‘what makes design effective’ are taken for granted, and we are at risk of losing them by not examining these aspects more closely. We are at risk of losing diversity of approach, effective practices, valuable tacit skills and working cultures before we fully understand how important they may prove to be many years from now.

It’s very hard to guess what our future demands on design may be - but we do know that good design is integral to innovation and the creative industries as a whole make a significant contribution to the UK economy responsible for 1.4million jobs and 5.3% of the country’s gross value added (GVA). 

It is important that a conversation about design’s role in society and economy engages and involves the very groups (designers, agencies, clients, recruiters, design thinkers and policymakers alike) that contribute to its success. By looking together at the expectations and values we hold now around design now, we can start to identify both the risks and the opportunities for the design industry in the future.

New technologies and platforms have led to the democratisation of design and increased public participation – and yet issues around privacy, authorship and the commercial use of user generated content by remain largely unresolved. There is an assumption that talent will rise to the top –and eventually reap the financial and reputational rewards, but this ‘audition culture’ is too new to be pinning our hopes on. It is already causing an outcry amongst creative professionals which can be seen here in the UK in the group “Stop working for free” and in the USA Content Creators Coalitionand may well lead to a public reluctance to contribute such content in the future.

In a week where the latest IPPC report is highlighting the increasingly urgent need for action on climate change, values such as concern for the environment and a belief that we should be less wasteful continue to come to the fore. There also signs that both consumer demand and corporate opinion are already shifting as a result. (See further reading below)

Alongside other creative industries, design has a part to play in engaging the public in changing our patterns of consumption. If designers want to contribute to a resource aware and equitable future then they should come out and say so – and back this up in their design practices. There is a real opportunity for building increased sustainability innovation into products and services – and for making this the ‘new normal’.

Supporting innovation is one of the most exciting and rewarding roles that design can play. If we want design to reach its full potential in contributing to our economy, and “making people’s lives better” then the design industry also has to learn how to partner more effectively with enterprises of all sizes, with engineers, technologists, government, and the increasing number of those for whom design is part of their role. The design industry will have to join all of its working partners in actively externalising and managing the values and expectations of all concerned – and it may have to rethink its role in order to do so. 

Sir George Cox said in 2005 that “design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end” – but this may have underplayed the potential contribution of both design and creativity alike. 

It must be made clear that design is no longer a bolt on, a way to add value to products and services towards the end of the development cycle.  Design must lie at the core, at the start of any enterprise if the tacit knowledge and expertise of designers is to be best taken advantage of. Retrofitting design is often a very costly and risky exercise. It’s also worth making sure that there is a greater public understanding that good design cannot be reduced to mere process. Good design may be best described as a licence to think, an agency for enquiry: the need to know why and how an object or process is the way it is: and the desire to see if it can be done differently.  

In summary, the creative industry, and design in particular has the opportunity to lead by example in creating better work, in working towards some of the world’s hardest problems and in taking a greater role in nurturing the talent streams of the future. 

The Design and Design Values event series will facilitate a conversation about these issues. Held on four Wednesday evenings over October and November, hosted by the Design SIG in central London, these events aim to combine the experience and insight of attendees, and social media participants, in open forums and facilitated design led workshop exercises. 

The following topics will be explored:

  • Design values: should design lead on embedding good practice at the core of global business and culture? What are the core values that design should champion?
  • Design skills: design practices are changing rapidly and the kind of talent needed is evolving almost faster than it can be mapped or met. Are the systems in place to sustain the pool of design talent or are we heading for a future talent skills gap?
  • Design collaboration: Design can be a facilitator for collaboration within the innovation process. However too often design is viewed as a standalone process, bolted on to the end of product, service or systems development. This prevents designers collaborating with other areas of expertise and exploiting the true social, economic and environmental benefits of design. How can we get past this and embed design as a core part of every enterprise, making design collaboration business as usual?

Please do join us on Wednesdays from 23rd October to 13th November. Please note that spaces are limited so registration is essential (via the links below.)

Session 1, 23 October: design thinkers and policymakers

Session 2, 30 October: agencies, recruiters and clients

Session 3, 6 November: designers

Session 4, 13 November: results

Further reading: 

1. The RSA Great Recovery project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, argues that design must be at the heart of the economic and environmental recovery process. The circular economy will create new partnerships and allow us to rethink our use of resources.

2. IPCC 2013 report: Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident  in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes. 

3. Fortune Favours the Brave: Business in the Community’s recent report details the opportunity for UK businesses to unlock around £100 billion a year in value by innovating to address social and environmental challenges – but claims that it is the consumer that must drive demand.

4. Value_Gap: The Business Value of Changing Consumer Behaviours: A recent survey by BSR and Futerra found that the business they surveyed expect that the consumer demand for sustainable products and services will grow from 2% to 98% by 2018.

5. Motivating Millions: Corporate Culture’s report, which quantifies – for the first time – the priorities, motivations, strategies and challenges of organisations currently acting to achieve sustainable behaviour change.

The Design Values project is led by Lucy Wills: designer, researcher and facilitator.

Lucy works in the core communications team at Business in the Community, a leading charity that promotes responsible business. Currently studying MA Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries at Central St Martins, Lucy is researching ways to help embed design at the core of innovation and enterprise, and to expose and examine the tacit skills, values and expectations that drive design. She has been an RSA fellow since 2008.







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