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The year ahead for the Design Council

The year ahead for the Design Council

3 February 2014 Written by By John Mathers Chief Executive, Design Council, 2012-2016

The start of 2014 feels like an exciting time to be embarking on my second full year as the Design Council’s Chief Executive.

Not only will the Design Council be celebrating its 70th anniversary in December, we can also look back on the past twelve months knowing that – as champions of great design in all walks of life – we’re doing a good job.

One of the year’s most significant highlights was the launch of Beyond 2012, our digital hub that celebrates the work of the many talented designers and architects who made London 2012 such a success. It’s now showcasing their stories around the world.

Our Design Leadership Programme continues strongly. Over the past few years it has helped thousands of small and medium sized businesses understand the importance of design as part of their drive for growth. Our team – and several pioneers in business – will be sharing their tips for success at our Leading Business by Design summit at the British Museum, which also builds on the first of a series of research projects that brings a fresh perspective on the role that design can play when properly embedded in a company’s DNA.

Building for Life 12, our vision for high quality, well-designed new housing, has received a great deal of cross-party support. The Built for Life awards scheme, recognising excellence in this field, will be high on the agenda this year as well as the introduction of a new Community Toolkit, which will offer practical guidance on design and sustainability to everyone involved in any new housing project, from the ground up. And, of course, we continue to deliver high level support for much of the most important new development in the built environment.

This holistic approach to design is echoed in two of our other initiatives – Active by design and Ageing better by design – which show how dynamic thinking in the round can produce creative solutions to many of the problems faced in society today. Design in the Public sector is an initiative advocating the use of design thinking to re-address the growing challenge of having to deliver more for less.

On another front, we’ve had our most successful call for entries ever for our Knee High Design Challenge. Aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of the under-fives in Southwark and Lambeth, this project will reach fruition when we announce the winners later this year. Like our previous Design Challenges, we hope it will prove both sustainable and scalable at a national level.

We’ve also had success with our Working Well Design Challenge, which launched three new digital services to help young people develop their talents and make a living. And our Future Pioneers programme, which we will be continuing with this year, has produced five young winners whose creative work ranges from helping people with type 1 diabetes to encouraging craft-based activities in local communities.

I am, of course, very pleased that, in conjunction with other like-minded organisations, we have persuaded the government to recognise the importance of design to the UK’s creative industries, which make a huge contribution to our economy and international reputation. And the fight to include design in the national curriculum will continue, hopefully bolstered by the very good figures announced recently.

We were also delighted to be appointed to lead the development of the European Design Innovation Platform which means that we will be able to showcase great British and European design around the world and help boost innovation, growth and job creation right across the EU. Work on this has already started and will ramp up as the year progresses.

Further afield, in countries as far apart as Australia and India, Japan and Chile, we are exploring ways in which we can both advocate the Design Council’s model as the gold standard for excellence in design and promote British design as the world’s yardstick for creative innovation.

Looking ahead, I want us all – the Design Council, the government, industry and leaders in the public sector – to be thinking about the many challenges we face and how we can embrace design as one of the principal tools for improving people’s lives. That, after all, is the aim of every good designer. And we champion that aim.

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