Not All “Designers Are Wankers”: Connecting Design, Enterprise and Regional Cultural Development

Trevor Duncan, Rickard Whittingham

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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This paper reports on how a University’s Designer in Residence Scheme has contributed to both the local cultural and economic regeneration of the design sector in the North East of England. This case study specifically reflects on how the schemes ‘practitioner mentoring’ has created a significant community of practice through the collaborations of a Design School, Enterprise Campus and regional development agencies. British design education is often bemoaned by the creative industries for failing to properly equip graduates for the ins and outs of the business of design; whilst at the same time it has become a truism of British industry that it innovates but does not make and sell. Northumbria University’s Designer in Residence scheme was established with a view to addressing both of these issues. A modern university is not wholly or even mainly just an academy. It could rather be seen as a context for the non-academic acquisition of higher-level practical skills, especially in creative fields. This is quite a different activity from the conventional teaching and tutoring process in which most universities, even today, are educationally landlocked. The industrial workshops, studios and ateliers that used to provide the context for this practical skills development no longer exist. It could be argued that they anyway never offered the grounding in independent, effective, self-management that a present day design sector needs. In the Designer in Residence Scheme such independence is routinely imparted and acquired by succeeding ‘breaking waves’ of designers. As academic partners on the scheme, the authors reflect on the value and methodologies of the initiative evolved throughout its ten-year span, focusing on the nature of the community of practice established between successive residents, academics and Enterprise Campus and crucially how the designers have owned the process of developing directional design practice. This creative dialogue has resulted in a number of key findings to be discussed in this paper on the relevance and value of design enterprise to regional development, cultural identity, and economic growth. The paper concludes by discussing the value to Higher Education in developing an integrated approach to the culture of design, enterprise and manufacture.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2011
EventThe 9th International European Academy of Design Conference - School of Fine Arts, University of Porto, Portugal
Duration: 4 May 2011 → …


ConferenceThe 9th International European Academy of Design Conference
Period4/05/11 → …


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