Design - a professional standard? - Business Works
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Design - a professional standard?

by Robin Horrex, Founder and CEO, MBC Group Give me a laptop, give me some software, get me a half-decent internet connection and some business cards and now I'm officially a British designer. Yes it is as easy as that says Robin Horrex, Founder and CEO of MBC Group.

I can pitch for business, both here in the UK and abroad, and work for myself or other people. The UK Design Industry is worth £2.5bn a year and, yes, I would like some of that. So what is the problem you might ask?

Design has a huge impact on the success of businesses, but in the current Wild West, as a client, how do you know which designer to choose? Does the designer really understand what you want to achieve? What is the point of hiring them instead of simply buying a template, one size fits all that someone in the office can work on?

Unfortunately, when it comes to design, it can be tricky to find the right person. You can go on previous work, but do you actually know how much input they had into whatever they are showing you? How much of it was their original design? How did it help meet the business needs of the client? What impact did it have on sales and promotion?

That is why we are calling for a professional quality mark for UK designers. It will set the standards for their work and give you, the client, the knowledge that whoever you choose to do the job, whether it is a talented one-man band working in their bedroom, or a large company, they will have the skills needed to do the job.

important to all businesses?

Why is this so important to all businesses? If you're a retailer you will want your website to do something different from a visitor attraction, like a museum. While they both need easy to use navigation, one has to sell the product immediately online, the other has to offer the opportunity to buy tickets, but also be attractive enough to encourage visitors to go there. Get this wrong and these businesses will lose business.

You could argue that a designer who doesn't fulfil the brief simply won't be used again. However, the damage has been done. The impact of getting it wrong reflects badly on our profession, both here and abroad. We Brits are known for our creativity. So I believe we have a duty to make sure we are selling not only creativity, but an assured professional standard which works for the client business. That way we will maintain our reputation and it will continue to make a huge contribution to the UK's balance of payments.

creativity and good business have to go hand in hand

Creativity and good business have to go hand in hand. Think about your branding. What happens if the designer gets that so wrong that it drives customers away? Does he or she understand the sensitivities of the cultures in which the brand will appear? For example, there are superstitions around numbers in the Far East. Certain words and phrases can be misinterpreted. Images are obviously important too.

We want all designers, from individuals to those working in larger companies, to have the same quality mark which we believe will give them a better chance of competing on a level playing field. Both the Design Council and the All Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) have welcomed this debate, but they need your input to decide on the next steps.

We've started the debate and the details have yet to be worked out, but I can tell you that no-one is suggesting that we set up another body.

We want the design industry to be taken seriously in this country as a major exporter and wealth-generating business just like any other. We want the government to understand that what we do is just as important as other industries that they've backed, such as the car industry.

We want people, like you, who hire designers to be clear that it is not simply a matter of creativity, which counts of course, but of professional standards. We want quality by design, the name of our White Paper, not design by accident.

You can download the full white paper from

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