20 January 2015

ID 2015 – Creative industry or craft industry? 10 ideas that ID2015 could do to elevate design as a whole

by Simon Richards

If you hadn’t already realised 2015 is the Year of Design in Ireland. The aim is to foster dialogue and collaboration, encouraging investment in design as a key component of competitiveness and innovation, grow employment opportunities and sales, as well as highlighting the export potential for the Irish design sector. This is an ambitious task and one that is highly commendable.

Design is an unsung hero in Ireland even though it has been intrinsic to much of the country’s success; from the design of pharmaceutical buildings (locally and globally), the design of technology hardware (Intel proudly displays “Designed in Ireland” on its Galileo Board) to design being a successful discipline within the many and varied creative industries across Ireland.

As I look through the programme of events for ID2015 it becomes apparent that engagement with business (our clients), promotion of the design industry as a whole, as well as demonstrating the value of the industry to the economy is missing.

Browsing through the list of activities on offer, the emphasis has been placed on style, craft, making and production. Even the intro video reinforces this; with no references to the value design brings to communities, society, experience or the bottom line.

Already the potential exciting year of design is turning into a focus on craft and aesthetics, positioning us as a cottage industry rather than flexing our muscles across all aspects of design, establishing us as a true business sector connecting with opinion formers, intrinsic to business success and showcasing our talent and potential to an international stage.

As a country, we’ve already established ourselves as a tech hub. Is it too much to have the same ambition for the creative industries? Surely we should be embracing that and taking this opportunity to think big and put our best foot forward as a collective – industrial, architecture, branding, advertising, digital design?

10 ideas that will help the creative industries become celebrated and connected at a national and international level:

1: Promotion of the industry and its many disciplines and the benefit design brings to business. A simple task would be to raise awareness of how designers influence not only commerce but also the day to day and our everyday surroundings. Think how AIB have created Backing Brave to celebrate entrepreneurs and small businesses, and how Ireland could own a “Backing Design” campaign.

2: Nationwide research into the state of the design industry, to promote understanding of the value of industry and provide a robust database and clear categorisation of disciplines.

3: Initiate a dialogue to build a case for the Creative Industries in Ireland and to provide support and economic benefits for companies commissioning design / creative services in Ireland.

4: Dialogue between industry and education. It is widely acknowledged that graduates are ill prepared for the commercial realities of today’s business, and this is just as true for design graduates being ill prepared for the modern studio. ID2015 has an opportunity to influence a change in design education and create a dialogue between the creative industries and educational bodies for the benefit of business and graduates alike.

5: Exhibition of design services at every Irish embassy, rather than just locally, to promote and showcase design talent in all its formats.

6: Bespoke conference targeting marketing directors and design buyers on the role of design and how to utilise design for business benefit.

7: A Design Showcase that demonstrates and celebrates all design services in a democratic and “non awards” situation, removing the divide between disciplines and positioning the industry as a creative force.

8: Establish dialogue with the government on the importance and value that the industry brings to the economy and how the design sector can bring significant employment.

9: Initiate a conference for state agencies and semi-state organisations to educate them on design and the procurement of design, creating design-buying heroes within Government

10: Establish dialogue, framework and a road map for creating a truly powerful business sector, understood and valued by government and business alike.

The Year of Design is a fantastic step forward but we need to start to talk more as an industry in how we help society, businesses and the economy and less around the making, the product and ourselves.