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Guest blog: design responsibility

Early experiences of the design industry gave me a life-long impression of a world of immense possibilities, squandered.

I am a designer, I am an observer and for the past 20 years I have worked with many of the UK’s high street retailers and some global fashion brands. Throughout the eighties I was able to observe at close hand, the patronising approach the design industry took toward its clients and their customers. Its superficiality and pretentiousness struck me as quite amusing and ultimately, unproductive.

I set my intention to build a design company on positive values and honest approaches. Through the eighties my design consultancy flourished. We approached each commission on its merits. We were truthful and straightforward with our clients. We resolved their issues and we gave them ownership of what we did for them. The results were always successful for our clients in whatever way they judged their success.

Through the nineties I saw no change in the world of the media. However I did observe shifts in the attitudes, awareness and habits of us ‘consumers’. Now in the 21st Century I am seeing a new consumer: aware, knowledgeable, introspective, responsible. We are looking to place our trust in something that will honour us as discerning individuals. We, new consumers, are represented at all levels in society, not just the chattering classes.

The design industry has great power. We have the ability to affect the way people feel about themselves and the world around them. With that power and with those abilities comes enormous responsibility. There is an imperative, brought on by the emergence of the new consumer, for the design industry to accept responsibility and to honour its skills, its crafts and its power. We new consumers are aware of being manipulated and are discerning. We are using all our senses as well as beginning to trust to our intuition in our processes of decision-making. We new consumers are not prepared to be bullied or patronised by design any more. We are not interested in the superficial and are looking for greater meaning in all aspects of our lives and those things that we are prepared to allow into our lives. We are increasingly interested in the truth and the provenance of those products and services that we buy.

The responsibility of the design industry is to acknowledge the desires and expectations of our customers and honour their trust. Taking this responsibility opens up enormous opportunity and potential. We are living in a world of rapid and profound change. Change is throwing up challenges that our cultures have neither history nor experience of. The design industry has the abilities to investigate and deliver new ways to resolve the new challenges. It is no longer good enough just to make something functional and beautiful. These are givens. It is now the responsibility of the designers to deliver the truth, in ways that engage and encourage.

There is a universe of positive possibilities out there. If you, as a designer are prepared to take responsibility for your abilities, then opportunities will be presented to you. Exciting and enlightening times.

NOTE. We are ALL new consumers.

Do not believe. KNOW

Do not hope. TRUST

Do not try. DO

Thank you to Martin for his thought provoking posts! Read more about Martin or take a look at his other posts.

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