Doubletalk on Design

I am baffled. The Times newspaper reports that the government organised a meeting with design gurus and civil service mandarins with the recommendation that a bit of lateral out-of-the- box thinking that comes with artists and designers would not go amiss in Whitehall. Forgive me — isn’t this the same government that has deleted Art and Design from the national curriculum? Perhaps some joined up thinking might be in order.

Similar views were aired in BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week on the 19th November when Andrew Marr led an excellent discussion on design education with Christopher Grayling, former Rector of the Royal College of Art (RCA), Dr Sarah Teasley also of the RCA, sculptor Antony Gormley and designer and Architect Ron Arad. They all expressed dismay that Art and Design is off the school curriculum and agreed that surely ‘we’ve already won the argument’ that design is vital to our economy? Apparently not.

In the sixties a teacher at a parents evening told my art-teacher father that ‘Art is for dim girls.’ No doubt my father took considerable pleasure in disabusing her. His philosophy was that understanding design was a core life skill: everyone has to choose how they dress in the morning; we all buy sofas and put house interiors together and we all make decisions about which kettle to buy.

One of my contemporaries at school was Jill Barklem, illustrator of the Brambly Hedge books, who no doubt, has been laughing all the way to the bank. This particular ‘dim girl’ has run a design related business for 27 years and over that time the Practice has probably collected or contributed around £2million to the Treasury in different kinds of taxes.

Designers add value, transcend the mundane, make life easier for people, uplift the spirit, contribute to the economy and it seems, have the potential to provide strategies for change in government departments. But they had better be quick; unless they restore Art and Design to the school syllabus we could be a dying breed.

Please write if you share these concerns — we’d love to hear from you.

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