The Design Summit
3rd July 2012
On Tuesday 26th June, I, along with about 200 of the leading names in business, government, design and design education converged at City Hall for an event organised by the Design Council. As Lord Bichard set out in his programme notes; ‘Positioned between the Jubilee and the Olympics, the Design Summit asks a bold question – Who do we think we are in 2012?’ The question was certainly referred to frequently, but as Nick, Alan and I found out, it is a surprisingly hard question to answer.
With an early registration at 8am, the bleary-eyed delegates were refreshed with a coffee and pastry and able to enjoy their first hit of the identity that we had created - a two-and-a-half meter high, free standing, die cut, Dufaylite logo.
For me personally - and the NB team as a whole - there is a real sense of satisfaction at seeing a finished project out in the real world. So it was with pride that we took our seats in the chamber and listened to Lord Bichard and Ian Callum, Design Director of Jaguar (primary sponsor of the event) open the event.
It was then Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP’s turn to take to the stage (backdrop by NB) to address the delegates (many of whom were making notes on our note paper) from behind the podium (designed by NB). This initial excitement did eventually diminish and I was able to concentrate on the content.
Vince’s speech was immediately followed by a volley of questions – something politicians must expect but simultaneously dread – mainly on the subjects of government procurement (what are you going to do about it?) and copyright (what are you going to do about it?).
Next up was the humorous and erudite Professor John Kay, a leading UK economist and (amongst other distinguished achievements) columnist for the FT. His talk used a heady mixture of cheap suits, gangland funerals, beta blockers and an iPhone to illustrate how the value in a product or commodity, the bit you really pay for, is the ‘design.’ His take on the ‘Who do we think we are?’ question was that this is not the question we should be focusing on - instead we should be focussing on ‘How do we match the capabilities of a business to the needs of the consumer.’ An interesting point, I thought.
Next up Chris Blackhurst, Editor and Editorial director of The Independent (who also sponsored the event) chaired a discussion (or was joined on the sofa) by Brent Hoberman, Co-founder of lastminute.com and Sara Murray, Founder of Confused.com. Both have a history of successful entrepreneurial innovation and were keen to express that this should be nurtured and encouraged.
It was at this stage that I had to return to NB headquarters to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our consumers – so I missed out on some lovely chocolate brownies (we designed the napkin). Luckily I have Alan and Nick’s highlights which I have paraphrased below:
Sebastian Conran - ‘What is Design Heaven?’ using stereotypical national characteristics and assumptions. For example, German design is self controlled; The Japanese are hard working and technology focused… Combine them and you get the punchline = Apple: which is designed in California, by a British designer, inspired by a German designer using Korean parts and assembled in China.
Timothy Everest - collaboration is king. After having his bike stolen, his work with cycle company Pearson proves that a knowledge and empathy for the brand your working with is crucial to success.
Jane ní Dhulchaointigh on Sugru - it’s humble beginning as handy ‘stuff’ that can mend and alter things and her efforts to build the brand, develop the company and ensure the product’s future potential as handy ‘stuff’ that can mend and alter things.
The evening reception in the magnificent Living Room’ was hosted by Quintessentially and doubled up as the launch of their ‘Best of British’ package. It was a good opportunity to admire our Dufaylite plinths with a mini exhibition of Design Council work and hear not one, but two fitting tributes to David Kester, the departing Chief Executive of the Design Council.
The view from the Living room was magnificent, not only a stunning panorama of London, but relaxed and happy delegates and most importantly a satisfied client team. I left at about 8pm, trudging back to NB with some hired iPads that I had to return and also carrying that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know that the late nights, early mornings, name badges, programmes, signage, tables, exhibition pieces, plinths, napkins, in short - effort, was all worth it.
I’d like to thank David, Beth, Margarita, Tracy and Jim at the Design Council for being a pleasure to work with. Look out for the full project report up on our site soon.