Blueleaf's Creative Director, Chris Jones points out the importance of digital in design... I recently attended the second annual Manchester Design Symposium at the splendid Town Hall, which in itself is an inspiration for any designer.

Arranged by the Design Initiative, the day was advertised as bringing together leading design thinkers and practitioners to speak on the subject of the value of design and its effect on the economy. Sounds good.

The speakers were Jason Smith (Fontsmith), Dave Kirkwood (3hundredand65), Morag Myerscough (Studio Myerscough), Will Hudson (It’s Nice That), Vera-Maria Glahn (Field) and Adrian Shaughnessy (ShaughnessyWorks / Unit Editions).

Each speaker presented on their own specialist area including type design, illustration, architectural graphics and digital installations. All were clearly accomplished in their field and each spoke passionately and knowledgeably.

Despite this, I left disappointed. Adrian Shaughnessy was the only speaker who I felt really touched on the event's theme of how design affects the economy and vice versa, and was certainly the only person to point out that the main growth area of design at the moment is digital. So where was the digital industry speaker? Where was the social speaker? Where was the digital marketing speaker? Where was the Creative Director of a leading web agency (I was in the audience, ha ha)? There was a huge gap in the programme where a web expert should have been.

I'm not blinkered enough to believe that digital is the only area of design that matters, but consider this; during Jason Smith's presentation, I watched lots of students diligently taking notes on type design, but as Jason himself pointed out, his company is one of only a tiny handful in the world. Jason's work is fantastic and he's clearly making a decent living if his client list is anything to go by, but I couldn't help but be concerned that for the next generation of designers in the room, the wrong message was being sent out. Maybe one or two will work in type design or another niche area, but for the great majority their future surely lies in digital.

Inspiring it may have been, but it was also a largely irrelevant event. Come on Manchester, we're the greatest city in the UK and a constant source of fantastic design. To have barely any mention of the web at such a high profile event is inexcusable and at worst risks showing the world that we're behind the times and out of touch with the commercial realities of design. Let's have more emphasis on digital at 2013's symposium or else I may just have to start my own. Now there's an idea...

7 Comments