Exploring the value of design.

Towards a Design Action Plan for Scotland

On 23 March, Manchester School of Art, PDR and Office for the Design Economy hosted a participatory workshop to identify the drivers and barriers of strategic use of design in Scotland. The participants also identified priority actions to encourage the drivers and overcome the barriers.

The participants at the workshop consisted of the design stakeholders as identified from the literature review of the design action plans across Europe which included design support bodies, design practitioners, education sector, business (private) sector, government, public sector and the third sector.

The key barrier to the strategic use of design in Scotland is identified as different levels of understanding of the value of design across stakeholder groups. Participants also noted the lack of high-profile design leaders, ineffective communication of the value of design, and a lack of strategic vision from design users as additional barriers. It is also revealed that the design community, including design support bodies and design practitioners, still needs to promote and communicate the value of design more effectively, and design users, including businesses, government, education sector, etc. would benefit from better understanding of the value of design and long-term strategic understanding.

The drivers were also identified at the workshop. The participants included current as well as potential (and often desired) drivers where the primary driver identified is the need for design leaders and champions both for the design community and design users. The need for better communication of the benefits of design, potentially through case studies were considered as a potential contribution from the design community; whereas the suitable resources and appropriate policies were an essential to convey the value of design to wider stakeholder groups and thus drive the strategic use of design in Scotland. Such issues were discussed throughout the workshop with exemplars of how design may be more effectively promoted, such as, the city of Dundee being the UK’s first designated UNESCO City of Design, and the opening of V&A Museum of Design in 2018, were all seen as positive drivers towards the more effective use of design across Scotland.

After completion of Activity 1 – the barriers and drivers to the strategic use of design in Scotland – the participants then considered priority actions that would inform a design action plan for Scotland. The main priorities identified by each group can be divided into two themes. One relates to increasing design involvement in the procurement system (Group 1 and 3), and the second concerns the development of national design strategy (Group 2 and 4). All groups considered the importance of having a Chief Design Officer or Minister for Design to represent and provide advocacy for the design community and act as a focal point to drive the changes necessary to enhance the strategic use of design in Scotland.

While Scotland has a significant design community, it lacks a unified voice that is able to advocate and lobby for design. By unifying different opinions and interests and creating a coherent focused voice to empower the design community, the design community has the potential to increase the perception of design and its wider role in the Scottish society. A key outcome from the workshop from that the participants representing the design community, was agreement on the need for such a voice and are now calling for a leadership to enable this.

A full report of the workshop will be posted soon.

Share this article