Our manifesto

We are a group of professionals who believe that great design makes things better for people, for business and for the planet. We also believe that to produce great design in Northern Ireland, we need to develop our local design talent and invest in our designers. How? By developing their skills, their confidence and, above all, their understanding of how they can make a real difference to our commercial and social landscape. Now and in the future.

We believe design to be mostly about change. Not whimsical change, but the fundamental, meaningful change that drives innovation and competitive advantage. We believe that true innovation comes from a cultural desire to move forward. And the companies who want to innovate, must design. By supporting the integration of design thinking, we propose that differentiation and relevance are the two most powerful components of business strategy.

The Northern Ireland Design Alliance is a voice. As a key partner in the UK Design Alliance, which is facilitated by Creative & Cultural Skills and the Design Council, we now have an opportunity to engage with all kinds of organisations and representatives from society, industry, education, government and many related associations.

This group is also a forum for change. It is open and diverse. We welcome contributions form every corner of design, business and society. We believe design to be a democratic activity – an enriching thinking process that can benefit every type of enterprise or organisation. It’s our view that if you have a desire to change things for the better then you are a designer, and your voice is welcome here.

Join us

This is what we believe in. If you believe it too, then sign up to show your support and join us in achieving these aims. We will keep you updated with progress and future events.

We want to see the Northern Ireland Design Alliance become an ongoing and sustainable voice for the design Industry here. The more support we can demonstrate from industry highlighting the need for the Northern Ireland Design Alliance, the better we can influence government to invest in the sector.

A brief history

UK wide

Design Blueprint
Industry advisory panel conducted extensive research into the skill needs of the design sector and developed an action plan for designers to help them access a range of professional tools, information and advice to improve their skills and career development and to help prepare design students for the challenges of work.

UK Design Alliance
Established as a group of design organisations and networks committed to making the UK’s design industry as skilled and professional as it can be.  Their work is guided by an industry-led advisory board and run by the Design Council and Creative & Cultural Skills.  This board includes a representative from Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland

May - as part of the wider UK Design Alliance movement,  Creative & Cultural Skills held a number of meetings with designers in Northern Ireland to understand the design sector here and how it needs to develop to support growth and drive industry standards.

June – Industry engagement revealed a number of key messages:

  • Despite the size of Northern Ireland, designers here don’t network to share professional knowledge
  • Designers tend not to collaborate with other design businesses to win work
  • There is an appetite for professional development but no local access to industry specific training or events to attend
  • Northern Ireland needs a body to provide a representative voice for designers

July - Steering committee set up for Northern Ireland Design Alliance, facilitated by Sara Graham, Northern Ireland Manager for CCSkills and  chaired by Colin McKeown from Whitespace2.  The committee comprises representatives from industry and education, keeping the skills agenda at the heart of developing  the design industry in Northern Ireland.

Nov – Official launch of the Northern Ireland Design Alliance at the Ulster Hall with Jonathan Sands from Elmwood speaking on the importance of investing in your people to grow a successful design business.  Also launched initial webpage with the question ‘What will improve design in Northern Ireland?’.


March – Second large event, ‘Beer, Branding and Responsible Design’ with speakers Ralph Ardill and local designer, Pete Kerr from Atto.

April to Sept - Steering committee working behind the scenes to develop a manifesto, new website and plan a programme of events for 2010-11.

Oct - Northern Ireland Design Alliance website launched.

Who is involved?

Our Steering committee comprises representatives from industry and education, keeping the skills agenda at the heart of developing the design industry in Northern Ireland.

Sara Graham, Head of Skills Academy NI, Creative & Cultural Skills
Colin McKeown, Creative Director, Whitespace2
Tony Woods, Creative Director, Eyesparks
Stephen McGilloway, BigSmall Design
Janet Coulter, University of Ulster
Chris Armstrong, Armstrong & Co.
Darragh Neely, Darragh Neely Design Works
David Woods, Bag of Bees
Jodie Young, Mammoth
John McDermott, AVB Brand
Richard Weston
Natalie Turkington

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