An interview with The Design Council

Posted on: 09/07/2015

Design plays an integral role within all industries yet it is often taken for granted and its impact overlooked. We’re producing a series of programmes for Sky TV exploring the UK design industry, showcasing the innovative companies driving the industry.

We interviewed John Mathers, CEO, Design Council, who gave a passionate and fascinating account of the industry. He spoke of how British design is revered around the world and how our creative industries is the fastest growing sector for the UK economy. They are responsible for £76.9bn annually and provide over 5% of UK jobs. The demand for good design will grow significantly and it’s crucial to keep up with the growing expectations for design.

John Mathers, CEO, Design Council

The Design Council was formed in Winston Churchill’s 1944 Government and was tasked with improving the UK’s industrial design standards in goods manufacturing to aid the economic recovery. The Council has now evolved to have a greater impact, with its 3 main aims of stimulating business growth, transforming public services and enhancing cities and places. I asked Mr Mathers about the importance of sustainability within designing buildings and cities to overcome the housing crisis:

It’s crucial that we consider sustainability from the start of the design process and homes must have longevity designed into them. I have a huge concern that in the drive to create more housing we sacrifice quality for quantity. The reality is if we focus on quality I believe we’ll get more homes built, more quickly and more effectively.”- John Mathers, CEO, Design Council

Human-centric design can play a significant role in solving important social problems. For instance, The Design Council’s The A&E Design Challenge looked at how to use design to reduce aggression towards frontline healthcare staff. Installing displays to reduce frustration around waiting time was one of the practical ways they achieved this. This collaboration with The Department of Health demonstrated how cost-effective design solutions, built around understanding of human behaviour, improved the patient experience.

The key challenge UK design faces is ensuring we bring through enough home-grown talent to address the skill shortage. Mr Mathers spoke of how the Government has limited creative education and needs to celebrate the successes of designers. All of the design companies we’ve interviewed stress the importance of stronger and more effective links between Universities and the industry. In the long-term University courses must be increasingly built around the actual needs of employers to ensure the industry’s sustainability and continued growth.

It’s crucial that the design industry connects, collaborates and innovates rapidly in order to adapt to changes within society. For instance, workplace design has changed massively to embrace how we now interact with each other. Our design series features some of the most innovative office designs, with employers now recognising the health, productivity and staff retention values of a well-designed workplace.

AutoTrader's office designed by Claremont Group Interiors

AutoTrader’s office designed by Claremont Group Interiors

Our series on design excellence broadcasts from August on Sky 189. Please share this blog on the social media links below and follow us on Twitter to be updated on our latest productions.

If you’re a design company interested in taking part in this series please email us at or call us on 020 8446 5460.

Read about our manufacturing series featuring The All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group.


Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986