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The creative sector is a huge asset to the country both economically and culturally – it consistently outperforms the rest of the economy (design as a sector is one of the fastest growing of all the creative industries) and it is central to the reputation and perception of the UK overseas. Without young people taking up creative subjects in the first place, the opportunity to develop the brightest and most imaginative minds will be lost. And what of those that go onto higher education – will it prepare them fully for a career in design?
“A lot more collaboration between students and the UK’s design firms would be helpful – and a lot more serious synergy between them,” said Wolff. “There’s more synergy with university science departments and enterprise than between design education and enterprise. That seems a shame.
Service design consultant Joel Bailey believes that investing in new forms of design for the future is fundamental for a thriving industry. “Service design is only about 15 years old, but it has evolved to meet the needs of a service economy of empowered customers, in a digital era,” he said. “The UK is a recognised leader in the field of service design, but not for long unless we invest in the sector and make the most of this opportunity.”
Although service designers are in demand, there simply aren’t enough of them. “The amount of service designers being trained is woefully inadequate,” added Bailey. Investment to ensure our design courses continue to deliver world-class talent will be pivotal to delivering against Hancock’s message that “the creative industries will be absolutely central to our post-Brexit future.” The RCA’s and Glasgow’s Design Innovation and Service Design courses are leading the field in service design education, but the quality of homegrown design talent is ever more important in light of Brexit if we are to remain competitive as an industry and as a nation.
According to Bailey, the service design sector in the UK is a prime example of an area that currently relies on overseas talent. “Many have trained at well-known and leading design schools abroad, but are coming here because this is where the money is being spent on big service design projects,” he said. “If we turn off that supply of talent, without nurturing homegrown talent, those projects will struggle to deliver, and those organisations will be uncompetitive as a result,” he added. “Most students don’t even know about service design as a possible career path. Further investment and awareness are absolutely key.”
Something positive the EU Referendum result has done is to stir up the industry – to collectively focus on the future beyond products and projects. We have to identify what we stand to lose, and focus on how we can maintain and grow the industry’s prosperity and reputation well into the future, whatever the obstacles. Initiatives like Dezeen’s ‘Brexit Design Manifesto’ – which is supported by the DBA and lays out very clearly how the government must support, invest in and prioritise design, design education and talent in order to ensure the sector continues to wield such a positive impact – are so important in crystalising focus, especially when it comes to government strategy at this unique time in our history.
“We are trained to be problem solvers, creative thinkers and communicators,” said House, “surely our attitude as an industry could be a catalyst to ensure that not only our industry thrives but becomes a champion of openness and ideas for the global community.” Answering challenging questions is something our industry is perfectly placed to do; it’s the nature of design thinking after all. If the industry works together to take firm control of its future – to lobby for it, fight for it, to make it a priority in the eyes of government – then the future will be in good hands.