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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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Ten useful phrases for Landscape Architects

Having worked in this industry for 40 years, I realise I use certain phrases again and again. It’s not verbal laziness — it’s just that some ways of speaking seem to get to the heart of the matter more quickly and effectively than any others I can think of.

So I thought I’d share my top ten useful phrases for landscape architects with you below — my colleagues at Liz Lake Associates here would no doubt attest to their authenticity! But of course we all have our own ways of communicating, favouring certain words, phrases and idioms. What do you find yourself uttering time and time again? Do let us know

The top ten

1. Explain simply – pretend I am an idiot. I use this for younger employees describing the functions of yet another computer program that I have to get my head round. Tell me the principles before I grasp the detail please. It probably drives them crazy but actually it’s good training in presenting their projects to the client or a planning officer.

2. The key issue is….Borrowed from an architect but the subtext for the client is: “the one obstacle to your getting planning permission is likely to be ……….”

3. What would you like — Wholesale NFL Jerseys planning permission for 75% of what you want or nothing at all? This is very useful for clients with unrealistic expectations. Well, unless it’s a golf course.

4. The more awful the truth the more ruthless you have to be with it. This is perhaps an action rather than a phrase to use. It applies to all sorts of work or personal situations; the truth is often easier to deal with than dithering around the subject.

5. We can’t solve this now. Very helpful in meetings where the discussions have become inexorably circular. It does however need to be followed up with a plan of action for resolution of the problem. It is not a suitable phrase for younger people to use as you need to look as if you have enough experience to be able to make that judgement.

6. Let’s not agonise over this. Another one for the circular discussions but more relevant when there is insufficient information to satisfactorily resolve a design problem and a deadline is looming. Just commit to something and send it off marked Draft.

7. Am I missing something? What you really mean is that the other person has not grasped an important point. For example, they want to put a car park on Sir Francis Drake’s Bowling Green at Plymouth Hoe and you can’t believe your ears.

8. I don’t think I included for that in our appointment letter. Exceptionally useful for a wide range of circumstances but more often where extra work is being requested and an offer of payment is unlikely to be forthcoming.

9. I think we need some tea. No explanation needed.

10. And finally my great maxim that in order to solve any problem, yes I mean any problem, you need to do one of the following:

  • Throw money at the problem
  • Put in a lot of effort to solve it
  • Reverse your attitude towards it.

So there we go. I hope you find some of them useful — try one out and see how it works! As I mentioned earlier, we’d love to hear what words help to keep your wheels running…..drop us a line.

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