BDI chairman Gus Desbarats believes that business expectations of Industrial Design being a broadly-based strategic offer rather than a narrowly-defined "product design" service are ill-matched by the way Industrial Design is taught and practised in the UK.
His comment came as the Design Commission of the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group (APDIG) seeks to establish the economic and social rationale for design education through its public Design Education Inquiry.
Desbarats also forecasts that consultants who develop their offer to meet business expectations of a strategic role for Industrial Design will do better than those who only sell product design.
His wide-ranging observations appear in The Top 100 Consultancy Survey published by Design Week magazine last month.
Desbarats, who is founder chairman of international design consultancy TheAlloy, has long championed an experience-led approach as a best practice response to client expectations of what Industrial Design consultancies should routinely offer businesses in all industry sectors.
Typical modern Industrial Design skillsets extend beyond traditional object creation skills to include business process modelling, innovation strategy, ethnographic research skills, cognitive behaviour knowledge, customer interaction choreography, brand narrative, proposition development, software design, service system design, graphic design, implementation feasibility, specification and sourcing.
"There are many reasons to expect next year to be a good one for Industrial Design (product design is too narrow a definition of what we do)," Gus Desbarats commented to Design Week. "Even if the [economic]
recovery is slow, there is broad acceptance that innovation will be a crucial driver, and the benefits of Industrial Design to innovation are more widely recognised than ever across all sectors of the economy.
The recovery will be a lot faster overseas, so Industrial Designers who work globally or with UK exporters are likely to do better than anyone who is too dependent on UK consumers. Equally, those groups that have evolved their offer to match business expectations of a strategic role for Industrial Design will do better than groups that only sell "old style" product design, which are more and more exposed to a classic 'death spiral' of cutting back on quality in response to price competition that can never be matched profitably.
We all need to start worrying about the fact that business expectations of what Industrial Design is for aren't terribly well matched by the way these skills are widely taught and practised in the UK."