What will improve design in Northern Ireland?

Share your thoughts
  • Colin McKeown, Creative Director, Whitespace2

    Greater debate and influence in the tendering process, will help Government understand the procurement of design services.

  • Jamie Neely, Creative Director, www.designbyfront.com

    Design professionals need to feed graduates with the skills, attitudes & behaviors required to nurture design thinking.

  • Colin McKeown, Creative Director, Whitespace2

    Development of professional standards of engagement, will raise the standard of service across the design industry.

  • Jamie Neely, Creative Director, www.designbyfront.com

    We could make more time for each other, professionally. Stronger partnerships could make us all more competitive.

  • Andrew Todd, www.tandemdesign.co.uk

    If we were to collectively refuse free pitching and replace with credentials pitching
    we would soon sort the wheat from the chaff.

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    Echoing Sands from last night: the broad ideas of “design” need to be built into
    the Nat. Curriculum for future business owners to understand it’s value; issues
    have to be tackled from the bottom up. It’s a massive task that requires vision
    and tenacity.

  • Rick Monro, Head of Design, Tibus.com

    Industry should consistently be encouraged to look beyond “what everyone else
    is doing” and truly engage in a meaningful design *process*. Increasingly
    innovative outcomes are guaranteed.

  • John McDermott, Head of design, www.avb-group.com

    Collaboration between different creatives will increase skills and learning within
    the design industry. Design studios should build relationships with online
    specialists, writers, illustrators, photographers and even other studios, as often
    as possible.

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    How can businesses understand the financial value of “good design” in NI’s grant-

  • Ian Sayers, Training Director, Giant Training

    Through Education and Training we can expand upon the creative talents of Designers – encouraging them to be more creative in an already noisy market. Being better, faster and more creative to think outside the box.

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    The design industry and design educators should be engaging with business
    schools and non-design industry bodies. How often are non-design business
    owners invited to design-related events? For example, how many know about
    the ICAD exhibition this week?

  • Marco Mckay | sr art director | Nav blue

    I think DCAL and other government departments should strive to stamp out the
    free-pitching culture and become innovators for good design practice & lobby
    local business in understanding the true value of design.

    It has to come from a governmental source.

  • Marco Mckay | sr art director | Nav blue

    Why not make Northern Ireland the creative business hub of the world? We have
    some very talented people here. Maybe a ‘silicon valley’ or more a ‘creative
    utopia’ should be what our local ministers strive to achieve.

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    Access to high quality training for professionals working at all levels of the design

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    An outlet for recognition (awards or otherwise) by an international body or panel
    of independent professionals

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    A genuine commitment to creating a framework for facilitating events – either Irish
    Design Week or our own Design festival

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    Ongoing promotion of all of the three initiatives below so that industry and the
    general public recognize the existence of an active design culture in Belfast

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    A staffed, organized and funded or commercial body committed to driving forward
    all of the initiatives below

  • Damian Cranney, Frank

    Design companies / professionals that charge more for justifiably great design
    work and possess the knowledge and communication skills to justify their position
    - and other suggestions below…

  • John McDermott, Head of Design, www.avb-group.com

    One central online resource covering all aspects of design in NI. An online
    forum that is run by C&CS and maintained by the design community. News,
    events, guest writers, showcase, discussions, training, help, advice and career
    opportunities etc.

  • Sandra Duffin, Senior Designer, www.tandemdesign.co.uk

    Working with each other as professionals as much as possible. The Airside and
    WithAssociates talk last night was a great example of how successful this can be,
    for the creatives and the client.

  • Sandra Duffin, Senior Designer, www.tandemdesign.co.uk

    An established mark of excellence with a minimum criteria that NI based design
    companies can sign up to. Something that clients would then become familiar
    with when sourcing design work. The equivalent to the Royal Society of Ulster
    Architects (RSUA).

  • Richard Weston, hamillBosket

    This one’s easy (and connected to John’s comment): establish a consolidated
    and comprehensive email contact list available to all and any design-related event
    organiser (or subscribable online notice board with RSS feed?).

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    Actually, retract that comment about the ICAD exhibition. Now I’ve seen it, I
    wouldn’t take a client. No offense meant, it’s OK for designers but I think a non-
    designer might be unimpressed…which raises another idea about how we
    present ourselves.

  • Gillian Colhoun, Designwriter

    Make the connection between commercial success and design thinking as
    early as possible. Design and business students should be collaborating and
    learning together. We need IOD, Design & Business faculties, secondary level
    education to create these links.

  • Gillian Colhoun, Designwriter

    How relevant is design to NI, socially or culturally? As a region we need to
    nurture a stronger design identity by creating / celebrating design champions
    from business, design and public sector communities. A design festival would be
    a great start.

  • Gillian Colhoun, Designwriter

    Sara said if this forum is to achieve meaningful results, then it should be driven by
    the design industry. I would go further by suggesting it should be driven by the
    whole of industry where the opinions of business mgrs & design procurers are also

  • Gillian Colhoun, Designwriter

    An exploration into the psychology behind the business community’s mistrust of
    design, designers and the design process. Perhaps less to do with a lack of
    understanding and more to do with a risk averse culture and a crippling fear of

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    TOTALLY agree with Gillian. On that last one: I wonder if any work on this has
    been done elsewhere? Either way, that’s a great actionable starting point.

  • Brendan McGoran, Creative Industries Officer, Belfast City Council

    Although not specifically a ‘Design Award’ but it is a start – Belfast City Council is delighted to be hosting the Belfast Business Awards 2010, in partnership with Belfast City Centre Management.

    The awards are all about celebrating success and they recognise the excellent contribution made by local businesses towards the overall development of our city.

    The Belfast Business Awards will take place in the newly refurbished Belfast City Hall on Thursday 29 April, with 19 awards presented in recognition of the fine work of business enterprises, retail outlets and businessmen and women across the city.

    I am happy to say that we have a ‘Best Creative Industries’ Award category again this year and I would urge all of those working in the film, TV, digital media, music and design sectors to apply. Further information can be found on the website – http://www.belfastbusinessawards.com/

    Good luck


  • David Airey, www.davidairey.com

    Graphic design courses need more emphasis on how designers deal with clients. My education was incredibly lacking in this area, and I feel like it’s taken a move to self-employment in order to understand the importance.

  • Chris Johnson, Creative Director, WEPANZEE.com

    Help and encourage students to develop a better awareness for User Interaction.
    When i was in college very little if any was covered in the syllabus

  • Dwayne Duncan, Design Associate, The InnoTech Centre (SouthWest College)

    The pneumatic tyre, the delorean, titanic, irish linen – design is nothing new in Northern Ireland. We dont need to do anything new, we just need to encourage the design talent we have, not just through schools but on into developing the ideas into profi

  • Michael Martin, Founder, www.ProBlogDesign.com

    Option for taking degree-standard design courses, outside of a degree, e.g. offer individual modules as separate courses? Or develop new ones? (Lots of ideas below!). Much more accessible to people this way.

  • Brian Crawford, Managing Director, Northside Graphics Ltd

    Being able to measure the benefit of design will show its true worth, whether it be cost savings through a redesigned shower head through to increased sales via a well designed and targeted marketing campaign.Quantify & demonstrate the benefits of design

  • Chris Armstrong, Final Year VisCom student, University of Ulster Belfast

    Agree with that last one. Why should companies trust us with their money if we
    can’t guarantee quantifiable results? We need to be able to present design as a
    good, and safe, investment for industry.

  • Ronan McKinless, Final Year Vis Com Student, ronanmckinless.com

    Mutual respect between clients and designers. All too often the power in this relationship slides one way or another, when ideally it should be carefully balanced, and respect shown from both parties.

  • Christopher Murphy, Course Director, University of Ulster

    Establishing an NI Design Award(s) would help to celebrate our successes and
    forge a sense of community.

    We have the talent and we’re beginning to punch well above our weight
    internationally. Feedback on last week’s Build conference from international
    delegates was overwhelmingly positive. We’re doing great work, let’s tell the

  • Christopher Murphy, Course Director, University of Ulster

    On Michael’s point about the ability to take degree standard courses outside of
    a degree. This is absolutely critical. There’s a great deal of content taught
    within universities that could be offered as standalone refreshers, taught to
    accommodate industries needs. Tell us what you need.

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    Chris A: Quantifiable results are powerful but can’t be guaranteed. Many ultra-
    successful marketing campaigns/new product launches have involved risk and
    bravery. We can minimise risk through market insight and measured results
    can breed confidence.

  • Stephen Shaw, Frank

    Reiterating Jonathan Sand’s & Richard Weston’s comments, we need to raise the profile of design values and craft in schools by engaging with curriculum planners & teachers. Ideally under the banner of a professional organisation.

  • Stephen Shaw, Frank

    We can only hope to deal with issues around free pitching when there is a broader appreciation of the real value of design and better understanding of how to commission it effectively.

  • Chris Armstrong, Final Year VisCom student, University of Ulster Belfast

    Richard: I agree each new project has a huge element of risk and uncertainty,
    but when presenting past ‘successes’ to potential clients, surely it would build
    confidence to show not only the good design, but also the quantifiable results
    each project had?

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket


  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    I agree Stephen. I think the free-pitching debate is a miss-direction. I’d expect
    better informed/educated clients to not want to commission work in that way
    because they’d recognise the skill and value in what we offer. It’s bigger than
    that debate.

  • Barry McGee, Future Media Developer, BBC

    Businesses in Northern Ireland, big and small, need to give due weight to design and web design. It’s not an after-thought, it should be one of the very first things you think of.

  • Lesley Bell, Partner, Whitespace2

    We have so much more to offer than just design! I think EVERY company
    should have a creative person sitting on their board. It would be an opportunity
    to show how ‘creative thinking’ can turn a company around and drive their
    business forward.

  • Jordan Moore, Web Designer & Developer, www.designbyfront.com

    Sharing and listening to our peers, we should do more of this. If we share new ideas and knowledge, we can improve together, which will then lead to greater output from the community.

  • Paddy Donnelly, UX Designer, Nascom, Belgium (Formerly NI)

    Definitely a properly organised webdesign awards ceremony is need to celebrate the wealth of talent in NI and get us noticed as a haven of world class talent. Events more of Build’s caliber are badly needed.

    I’d come home for something like that. :)

  • Jonathan Alport. Founder/Curator www.TheCreativePortal.com

    Professional development, training and business acumen are essential
    elements of the career tool-kit but what we need to do first is change the way
    that industry, talent, mentors and business support consultants can formerly
    engage with each other and ‘create desire’ in the pursuit of career and
    business success.

  • Richard Weston, Designer, hamillBosket

    Can someone build an RSS/Twitter linked WikiNoticeBoard thing so we can have
    a consolidated Design Events guide? Bet someone could do that easily. An easy
    NIDA initiative that can help publicise the scheme.

  • Rick Monro, Head of Design, Tibus.com

    On a related issue, the CSD is pushing for professional accreditation for the
    design profession and introduce a designation of CDes. This would bring us up to
    par with architects, engineers etc. Not a fix-all, but progress.

  • Alan Anderson, Designer, www.bluetubedesign.com

    As pointed out there are 1000s of individual designers within Northern Ireland
    however many are doing non design jobs as training courses are focused
    purely on design, if we are going to break the ‘grant-culture’ sales training
    needs to be introduced

  • Geoff Clarke, www.ustogether.eu

    As Gillian has commented, I think there is a cultural lack of awareness of the benefits of quality design in Northern Ireland. Perhaps this is something that could be introduced via schools at an earlier age to foster more creative thinking.

  • Geoff Clarke, www.ustogether.eu

    Coming from a small manufacturing business, I think the typical NI mindset is quite ‘closed’ to what good design can achieve. Our ‘mindset’ tends to find more reasons why not to do things, cost, lack of understanding…etc as opposed to reasons to do so

  • Susan Stewart, whiteoffice.co.uk UU

    University Staff level visits or exchanges to design schools in Europe to boost and expand the way in which design is taught in Northern Ireland.

  • Darragh Neely, CD, Darragh Neely Design Works

    From the roots up; ‘talent’ is ill-prepared for our industry (refer to graphics) and thus, opportunities are being missed as creatives fizzle-away. Why?.. Outdated, non-relevant, non-practical courses and training are not keeping up with what’s actually happening on the ground.

  • Gareth Lynas, Creative Director, Icon Creative, www.iconcds.com

    Define ‘Design’. It needs to be clearly understood to have any value or
    relevance in business. What is it? Web, Product, Graphic – the wider
    community don’t see the value of just ‘art’ or aesthetic. Focus on the benefits
    and demand will increase…

  • Deborah Dawton, CEO, DBA, UK

    The DBA would happily run workshops for designers to encourage a better understanding of design effectiveness on the bottom line of a client’s business. Open up this dialogue with clients and design as a value-add becomes tangible.

  • Shane McGuigan, Creative Director / Founder, A Graphic Practice, Berlin

    It might be an idea to define what we mean by the word ‘design’. Its difficult to
    educate the general public about the benefits of effective designs solutions when
    OUR use of the word ‘design’ often goes no further than referring to the aesthetic.

  • Disillusioned, Designer, movingawayfromni.com

    Moan, Moan, Moan. NI Attitude. Nothing positive? Clients annoy you – Don’t work for them. Go find the one’s you want!

  • Lee Evans

    Using non pixelated text on your website would be a productive start.

  • Sean Kelly, INM Studio Manager

    It’s fine for everyone one to pass judgement on new designers being “Ill
    prepared for the industry”. However how can these designers gain the
    experience needed, when all our design agencies do not offer paid work
    experience to help develop these skills.

  • Sean Kelly, INM Studio Manager

    What we as a community need to be able to do is to be able to develop an all
    encompassing strategy to nurture creativity and offer those involved a clear
    progression to develop their skills both at college and in the workplace in

  • Colin Williams, Creative Director, SixteenSouth and Inferno

    To be honest, the quickest and most effective way we can make a massive
    difference is to work together and stop being so suspicious or mistrusting of
    each other. NI is small but we have exceptional talent that can take on the
    best. Collaboration.

  • Evelyn, Co Founder, BlackNorth

    YES! What are the opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration between the design and other creative sectors in NI? There is likely growth in the animation/VFX sectors over the next few years, now seems a great time to nurture and develop studio collaboration and relationships. We should be developing the sector so that we are bringing money here and stop the ongoing drip to London and Dublin.

  • Gareth Hammond, Senior Account Manager, Mammoth

    The teaching of good grammar skills in design school would be a start, looking at some of the comments on this site. We use words, after all, as well as pictures. Some mistakes I’ve seen on finished pieces have been unacceptable.

  • Gareth Hammond, Senior Account Manager, Mammoth

    Couldn’t agree more, Iced Coffee.

  • Craig Hunter, StudioStereo, Belfast

    If our public services, government departments, councils and publicly funded
    organisations exhibit no attention to either properly functioning communication
    or aesthetics, what hope is there? We need a more ‘european’ climate of

  • Rob Durston, photographer, Rob Durston Photography

    Thanks to all the presenters last night at Beer, Branding and Responsible Design,
    it was very informative and interesting; Ralph had me glued to his every word and
    thought. Reading through most of the comments here, I have to agree with the

  • Rob Durston, photographer, Rob Durston Photography

    Expanding on my post, coming from the North American market, I find it amazing
    at how much is “given away” here. From meetings to revisions, almost anything is
    done just to keep the client happy and loyal, meanwhile the industry as a whole

  • Niall Mckenna, Designer, Freelance

    I ave always been a fan of the work of the D&AD in England. The quality of the lectures and workshops and the incentive of the awards were fantastic when I was coming up through University. But even then we felt it a too ‘London centric’ organisation. Th

  • Mark Case, Owner/Director, Whitenoise.

    We all need to get behind the Design Alliance (including both designers AND
    bosses) and speak with one voice to our various existing and potential clients,
    government (especially procurement), business and industry, arts, education and

  • Natalie Johnston, Owner & Senior Designer, Anorak Creatives www.anorakcreatives.com

    I agree that students need more realistic and practical training for the real world. And also I think that businesses need to be made alot more aware of the potential value ‘good design’ can make to the success of their business and image.

  • Sfeeney

    Having studied design here in Ireland at the University of Ulster and in England at Northumbria University I would say the quality of education provided here is superior, our weak point is industrial connections. We are lacking innovative companies with too many promising designers forced to leave the country or constrain there creativity in an unsuitable role here in Ireland. Our designers seem to be going straight from college into factories rather than the more nurturing consultancies available to graduates across the sea. The problem doesnt lie with the universities but the professionals in this country unwilling/unable to provide graduates with RELEVANT experience.

  • Mark

    To me there are a range of factors that will ultimately improve design in this Country. I chose graphic design as a career path when I left school in 1995 because I thought it sounded like a cool job. Way Hey! Sounds stupid now but I had no idea what I was getting into. Career advisors and teachers alike had no idea what the job really entailed. I thought, what da hell and gave it a go! I didn’t go to university. Instead I chose to work my way up through studios and agencies. I was ahead of a lot of my peers at the time who were on the same career path, this was due to real hands on experience. I was given a chance by certain people who seen potential in me. But I worked for it. I put in long hours, with a thirst to be the best, different and all of that. All I know is that no-one is going to hand you a design placement necessarily because you have a degree. I’m self taught. Lots of hours reading books and teaching myself. I’m still learning – new techniques, programs and skills. Relevant experience is crucial. However, In order to get the jobs I wanted I tried to show how creative I could be with CV’s. Every major position that I got was through a well crafted CV. The Portfolio is another. My motto when I was training was… if you don’t have the work – make it up! Show what you can do. Take a major brand and and re-invent it, If it’s good enough, why not even send it to the brand and be pro-active. Self belief is a very powerful thing. I got every job I ever went for by showing my thirst for design.

    Education is also very important but I think there is too much emphasis on theory and not enough practicality. One way around this might be for universities to set up some sort of incubator for designers to get real hands on experience. Maybe by starting on their own advertising in house. Invest in attracting experienced designers to play a role as creative directors to train the kids. If the price is going up for education, maybe their is an argument for pupils to be able to earn it back through university ran studios/agencies that allow the kids the chance to pay back their loans and earn real money in the process. Just a thought.

    Northern Ireland to me, feels like the small enterprise capital of the world. Everyone is out for a bargain. This has a role in that it is inevitable that designers will lower costs to react to the market and demand of customers. This cheapens and de-values design. I should know I’ve been guilty of it myself.

    Investment of large companies might help, but only if they buy their services here.
    What might also help design would be to try and encourage more large international agencies back to this country who will attract the big spenders in advertising and so on. This will allow local talent to show what it’s really made of. If you’re good… you’re good and that’s it.

    Somebody once told me that you’re only limited by your own imagination – I think that’s bang on.