A strategic vision and how to bring it to life

By: Lucinda Dargavel Date: 19/04/2017

Demonstrating the importance of good design and explaining how to put it to best use is the aim of a groundbreaking blueprint to be drawn up by university researchers.
The UK's most comprehensive national action plan ever for the strategic use of design will pull together evidence of design’s value to the nation as well as spell out the steps to putting it into practice and PDR is proud to say that it will be part of it.

Manchester Metropolitan University's School of Art Research Centre, has won £585k funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop the action plan and Design Council, which is a collaboration with PDR, is a key partner on the two-year project.

"Design is a user-centred approach to innovation in both the private and public sector. Increasingly, design is not only being integrated into policy as a driver of competitiveness but design methods are being used by government teams to creatively engage the public in the policy process. The research project will use design methods to build consensus among a diverse range of stakeholders.”


Professor Martyn Evans, Head of the Manchester School of Art Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University, said, "A growing number of countries have developed action plans for design – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia and New Zealand, for example – and the UK is not one of them. The goal is to develop an action plan for the strategic use of design in the UK: how design can be used for societal and economic benefits. It's to build into the DNA of organisations the ability to see how design can be used and how to use it more efficiently.”
The broad scope of the project will include the more traditional design disciplines such as interior, product and graphic, but will importantly engage with the emerging design disciplines, for example service design, user experience and design for policy. What sets the blueprint for this action plan apart from previous studies is the way that it will not just define a strategic vision, but will go on to detail how to apply the expert guidance and provide advice to bring this vision to life.
Professor Evans explained, "There's an opportunity in the public sector to use design to improve the services or the product – how to improve customer experience in hospitals for example. It's about both the tangible and intangible benefits of design – something that needs to be communicated more effectively."
The research will take the form of literature reviews, interviews and an online forum, a telephone survey, workshops and expert panel discussions which will underpin the development of the action plan.
The idea is to take a detailed snapshot of the state of design including defining the sector's core concepts, highlighting the attitudes and beliefs held by movers and shakers in the industry and identifying any existing barriers to the effective use of design.
Sally Benton, Director of Policy and Communications at Design Council, said, “We are delighted to support this important project. Design is vital to the economy, contributing more than £71bn in GVA (gross value added) to the UK. But its impact expands far wider. Through our work we see how design can drive innovation across industries, help shape places that are healthy, sustainable and inclusive, and, unlock solutions to major societal problems and transform local services. This is a fantastic opportunity to work together to develop an action plan to put design at the heart of decision making and we are pleased to be part of the team."
The universities will work with leaders in design and innovation policy and practice,  including Design Council, the AHRC, innovation foundation Nesta and the UK's innovation agency Innovate UK to build momentum and put design firmly on the government’s agenda.
Professor Evans continued, "It's about saying: 'Design is a powerful force for innovation. Now, how am I going to use it effectively?' We want to help people – from SMEs to multinational corporations as well as public sector organisations – figure out how they can benefit from design, and we'd like to see how the message can be conveyed in engaging ways. It's also important to show where design has not been used effectively, as much can be learned from such situations, so we will be realistic in how we communicate the contribution that design can make in addressing economic and societal challenges.”
An interactive website will be introduced when the project launches in May 2017 at alongside a Twitter account, @plan4design, to maximise the communication of the research process and insights generated.
It is anticipated the findings will be showcased in the Houses of Parliament with support from the All-Party Parliamentary Design Innovation Group in spring 2019.