Saturday, March 27, 2010

Design Wales hosts live web debate on design

On Friday 26th March, Design Wales hosted a viewing of the live Design Council web-cast ‘Design beyond the recession: For better or for worse?’. The event debated three motions before a live audience in London and wider on-line community - totalling more than 600 people - were able to submit their votes.

David Kester (Design Council Chief Executive) introduced the event and Ursula Davies (Research Manager) presented the latest statistics from the UK design industry survey. According to the research, there are 232,000 designers in the UK. 28% of them are freelance (up 39% from 2005) while those in design consultancies and in-house teams each represent 36%. Since 2005, around 40% of consultancies and freelancers report increasing their fee rates compared with 40% who have registered no change. The survey also revealed that only one in ten designers is a member of a regional design network.

The debate centred on three motions:
1. Recessions are good news in disguise for designers
2. Networks are fine but they won’t keep me in business
3. Tighter finances mean more on the job learning and that’s a good thing

While the debates were lively and informative they were ultimately inconclusive as the delegates and spectators agreed that in each case it was not a question of ‘either or’ but ‘a bit of both’. For example, while the necessities of a recession can lead to innovations, at the end of the day design firms need to balance the books and the figures are often stacked against them. Similarly, while networking and regional design networks can create excellent opportunities for meeting new clients and generating new business, all the fundamental business principles still apply and designers need to sell themselves. Again, in the case of training versus on the job learning, participants agreed that a delicate balance between the two was optimal.

With regards to the second motion, Design Wales was able to submit an online question, which was taken up by the panel: If regional design networks are so great, why are only 10% of UK designers members of one? Is it the cost of membership, value for money, lack of awareness of the networks or the quality of the networks on offer? The issue of regional design networks is one that is currently being examined by both Design Wales and the Design Council. Design Wales is in the process of launching a new forum for Wales while the Design Council is trying to identify the priorities for designers in regional networks across the UK.

For each of the three motions, the distribution of the combined votes from the live and remote audiences was approximately 40% for and 60% against. Nevertheless the event was a success. Although the phrasing of the motions came under criticism from the audience in Wales, the concept behind a live design debate across the UK bringing the diverse design disciplines into an animated discussion was a valuable exercise and one which all involved would like to see take place again.

The full report 'Design Industry Research 2010', including a factsheet on Design Businesses in Wales, can be downloaded from here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PechaKucha Night in Cardiff

Design Wales are helping to promote the first official PechaKucha night in Cardiff.
Taking place at Chapter in Cardiff on 25th March the line up of 13 speakers with 20 slides shown for a maximum of 20 seconds includes; Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks and Nick Clark of The Partners. You can see the detail on the promotinal poster by visiting the official PechaKucha website.
The night will be webcast live and available on demand a few days later, the link to watch it is

Monday, March 22, 2010

Design Evaluation for Public Policy

On Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th March 2010, Design Wales attended the National School of Government course ‘Evaluating Public Policy and Programmes’ in anticipation of the third SEE workshop. Design Wales is Lead Partner of the SEE Project, a network of eleven design organisations examining how to integrate design into regional policy. SEE is operating from September 2008 to June 2011, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVC programme. The third SEE workshop will be held in Florence on 10th and 11th May and will focus on ‘Evaluation Tools for Implementing Design Policy’. As Lord Kelvin stated in the Worldwide Governance Indicators brochure, ‘If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it’. Evaluation is a key stage in the policy cycle, one which is too often overlooked due to lack to resources. The course involved a six stage policy simulation exercise which addressed each step in the process of evaluation for evidence-based policy-making. The course will not only provide input for the thematic workshop but will also provide valuable input for the third SEE Policy Booklet on the same topic. As James Moultrie mentions in the first SEE bulletin, ‘Whilst there is some evidence to demonstrate the value of design to the firm, there are very few studies that have successfully demonstrated the value of design at a regional or national level’. Therefore evaluation is one of many barriers to achieving the SEE objective of integrating design into regional policy. The absence of a pan-European definition for design means that design is hard to measure and if you cannot measure performance, you cannot evaluate its contribution to public policy. Therefore the challenge set for the third SEE workshop will be investigating various tools and methods for evaluating design in a policy context.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Design Wales to host regional debate event.

On the 26th March between 9:30 and 11am the Design Council are hosting a debate in London that will be available via live webcast. The focus of the event is on design and the economic recession and the questions debated:
  • Are recessions good news in disguise for designers?
  • Has the downturn forced designers to value their networks?
  • Is on-the-job learning better than no learning at all?
And there will be no fence-sitting –at the end of each debate there will be a vote "for" or "against".

Digital design specialist Simon Waterfall is the compere for the morning, calling in the votes not just from the event but from a live webcast audience as well. Speakers locking horns include iconic product designer Tom Dixon, graphics grandee Mike Dempsey and creative industries number cruncher Mandy Merron.

You can register to view and vote from your own computer by visiting:

Design Wales are also hosting an  event to view the webcast and discuss the issues off-line after the vote. If you would like to attend please e-mail

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Design Wales' SEE Project Quoted in Key Design Procurement Report

Earlier this month (2nd March) the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) and Design Business Association (DBA) launched their report Design and the public good: Creativity vs. The Procurement Process in the House of Lords.

The report is the result of a six month inquiry into the procurement of design services by the public sector and includes a reference to our own SEE Project Policy Booklet - Integrating Design into Regional Innovation Policy.

In addition to highlighting the problems from the perspective of the designer the report expertly outlines the potential benefits being missed by the wider public sector through not working effectively with creative services and goes on to propose recommendations in terms of:
  • Knowledge; to deepen the understanding of the value of design amongst policy makers and buyers.
  • Skills; to improve the capacity and skills of public sector design and innovation procurers.
  • Process; to transform the procurement process for design and innovation.
This report makes a lot of sense and wherever possible we will champion the report in the Welsh public sector through our networking and business support activities. If you want to read the report yourself then visit the APDIG website to download your own copy and find out more about wider government-related design and innovation stories.
For more information visit: