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Leslie Budd on... design

Updated Thursday 18th February 2010

Leslie Budd explains why there's more to design than just fashion.

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Copyright The Open University


Copyright The Open University



Dr Leslie Budd

Design is popularly associated with fashion and the recent death of Alexander McQueen confirms this public perception. 

But design is central to all economic activities, a fact often overlooked in an economy that had undervalued designer manufacturing until the recent financial crisis.  Indeed the UK has a long history and tradition of design from William Morris to James Dyson among many others.  The UK’s design education system is one of the leading ones in the world and the reputation of British architects is visible in their signature buildings which adorn many cities around the world. 

Design has many meanings but a simple definition would suggest it’s the application of creativity in action.  As creativity is central to the human condition what has luck got to do with design?  Well, the design process engages with chance in that there is no certainty that a product or design will be created.  Moreover there is often uncertainty around whether first move advantage of a design will be maintained. 

For example, the first jet airliner and the magnetic levitation technology was invented in the United Kingdom but their successful application is dominated by the Americans and the Germans.  Was it bad luck or a failure of public will? 

Well, we ignore design and its benefits at our peril.  But the bottom line is that unless you have market power, market size and supportive public policy the successful and sustainable application of design will be missing.  Similarly, occupational and business opportunities are more a matter of design rather than luck. 

That’s my view.  Join the debate with the Open University.





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