The future of design

Michon are passionate about helping future-proof our industry and a core strand of our CSR strategy is to help improve education and inspire the industry for the next wave of Karen Beckett’s, Kathryn Parson’s, Wolfgang Butresse’s, Martha Lane-Foxe’s or Nils Leonard’s.

We were delighted to be invited by the #DBA to take part in a significant round table discussion about the ‘future of talent’ chaired by Jack Tinsdale #APDIG. The discussion will help develop a term paper to support design skills and be featured at the Conservative Conference on 1st October 2018.

During the discussion we debated the gap between academia and the ‘real world’ commerciality; how to show the intrinsic value of design to the wider economy; and more importantly how to make a career in design seem a sensible choice.

So how can our industry help the cause? Sure, we can all get excited and welcome students into our offices to provide real tasters of our jobs. But we see some fundamental stumbling blocks before even getting started. The first is inspiring our young and their key influencers; in 2010 the UK government changed the education curriculum English Baccalaureate (EBacc) policy. As part of the policy, Design and Technology is not a compulsory subject and as a result, take up for these subjects has seen a decline. And although English and Maths results are improving (which is not a bad thing), it’s at the detriment of the creative industry – the industry that’s been identified as a projected growth market for the UK economy at this crucial time.

In 2017 the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport published that our sector contributes over £92billion to our economy, employing more than two million people and is growing three times as fast as the economy as a whole. Even the Huffington Post recently said ‘we can get the conditions right and the Creative Industries continue to outperform the rest of the UK economy, they have the potential to be worth £150billion and create 600,000 new jobs by the mid-2020s.’ But with no appetite to amend the curriculum and bring design and technology as a compulsory subject, what’s the answer?

How are we planning to achieve the end goal if we’re not inspiring the fertile minds of our young people and making creative, design or technology a viable career option. Then if you also consider that the wider group education, families and communities need to come to the party, it’s quite a steep hill to climb.

By nature, our industry is quirky, it’s fast paced and original – it attracts a certain type of person. It seems to us that we’re also not doing enough to create opportunities for emerging talent that choose not to go to university, and marry this to the healthy growth and support of our economy. Years ago the creative industries offered job solutions for those who didn’t have a degree and just wanted to work at something they loved, that opportunity gap is closing – should it? Legitimately are there creative roles that can be done that don’t need a degree but a willingness to learn, passion and creativity? We’d say yes, show us a bright, passionate young person with a keenness to learn on the job and you’ve got the core foundations to become the next Alan Fletcher. Inspiring creativity at grass roots no matter your background is the way forward but we need to tackle it in a joined-up way.

We see genuine enthusiasm from peers in other agencies to support young people, but there are real-life barriers such as the fact that the creative industries are largely made up of SMEs. Independent agencies are happier to give up their valuable commodity of time and less likely to write out a cheque – a stretch too far for the bottom line. With a lack of organisations or bodies to connect young people and creative businesses, the result at best might be disparate groups trying to do good, succeeding on a small scale and failing overall.

For decades the UK has been a pioneer of creativity and design, we see it as crucial to support the next generation of young creatives, and fundamental to the survival of our economy. We think our industry could be better enabled if an organisation like the DBA, with the support of its members, spearheaded a UK wide programme that’s ownable at all levels – grass roots, education and industry. A change for life campaign for Design and Technology if you like.

So, who’s with us?