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Recently, a two-page article in the Times of London caught my eye. Not because its thesis was staggeringly original, but rather because it made my blood boil. Here’s the gist: designers charge a fortune for a logo tweak (in this case, 12,000 pounds (just over $19,000) to update the mark of the National Health Service for its 60th anniversary celebrations). Moral outrage promptly ensues from taxpayers/consumers who can’t believe their money would be wasted so profligately (do also see the comments on that story) and who conclude by questioning the value of design itself. Tory MP Greg Hands is quoted in the piece, saying: “Modern graphic design packages surely allow anyone with an average brain to design something as good as, or better than, what we see in front of us here.”
And the thing is, they do. My blood didn’t boil in support of designers, despite having written about the industry for years now, and despite believing with every fiber of my being that good design really does matter and really can make a difference to a company’s bottom line. And despite the fact that this argument is superficial and doesn’t acknowledge the true scope of the design process. But what stuns me is that apparently no designer has been able to put up a spirited defense to stop the naysayers once and for all. If design is, as designers like to make out, so important and critical (and difficult and expensive), then why do stories like this crop up with tedious regularity? And as the “modern graphic design packages” Hands refers to continue to improve, why should companies fork out hefty fees to design consultancies? In an era when crowdsourcing is shaking out to provide an alternative creative option for businesses of any size, and a time when companies as large and influential as Google get to show a blase disregard for design by instead focusing on technology and speed of use, designers need to step up and fight back and prove their craft is not a twentieth century anachronism. Who is making the case for the value of design? More importantly, how do you know who’s listening? Because right now, I don’t hear you and nor, it seems, do many others.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.