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.