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Kevin McCullagh
director of Plan

Design is in the limelight. Never before have designers been so fawned over by business, government and the press. Scratch the surface however and you will find a sense of unease about the future.

The first challenge is the debasement of ‘innovation’. Everyone brainstorms now and like to express their creativity, but it tends to result in more rhetoric than progress. It could also be argued that when everyone is considered creative, no one is. When professional designers are commissioned to innovate, business tends to err on the side of caution by prioritising consumer input and often prefers to tweak an existing product or extend a brand, than invest in creating new ones.

A second challenge is that of creative complacency. There is an idea, shared by both government and many designers, that Britain’s future lies in being creative and clever, while China and India will be happy with the dirty hard work. Mumbai already boasts a nascent advertising industry and China made it onto the top 10 countries for patent applications last year. Is British design really that special?

Finally there is a looming identity crisis. Definitions of design are shifting and contested, and designers increasingly have to defend their remit and role. Solutions to a looming identity crisis in design include: a bolder and more discerning approach to innovation, a clear view of Britain’s role in the future global division of creative labour and a new knowledge map of design.

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