Thursdays state budget brought home the reality of shifting financial circumstances for South Australia. Along with a number of difficult decisions, the Treasurer announced that the Integrated Design Commission will cease in 2013. This means the work of the Commission will continue through 2012, and beyond through the office of the State Government Architect, Ben Hewett and a small talented team that will continue to work with Ministerial offices, agencies, councils and authorities to help deliver better places for people in South Australia.
When cabinet established the Integrated Design Commission in 2010 our instructions were to promote good design, and to ensure that decisions weremade with the best design outcomes in mind. We still have a lot to do before either of those could be said to be’mission accomplished’ but the Premier has made it clear he wants us to commit ourselves over the next six months to a renewed sense of purpose so that the ambition behind the Commission is integrated more broadly across government. Why is this important?
Those cities, states and countries that have a design-smart culture are more prosperous, have higher quality of life, and are more able to manage change and bounce back from shocks. Singapore has invested heavily in its creative economy since a sub-committee of Treasury established ”Design Singapore” in 2003. Britain’s Design Council (with whom we signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011) was part of Britain’s post-war strategy to boost production and create an industry around clever local products. Denmark, Finland and Japan are economies that are resilient and design-driven.
But being ‘design-smart’ means making decisions at all points of the compass. Adelaide and South Australia can be vibrant, safe and healthy, be a prosperous and ‘clean’ brand if we put design at the centre of the decisions we make; small and large. This has to be done across government. Designers often debate whether we need a ‘Minister for Design’. It would give design profile, but possibly in yet another silo. No, if we can truly embed an appreciation of design thinking across government this state will have its competitive advantage.
Wonderful places, clever products and seamless services always feature a designer somewhere in the mix. Great buildings inspire and sustain us. These are the work of architects and engineers. Our wonderful North Terrace is one of Australia’s finest examples of landscape architecture. Our oysters are grown in revolutionary baskets developed by industrial designers. Our wine is sold under labels and on websites conceived by graphic designers. Design and designers are the invisible everywhere. Our economy is fuelled on the creative enterprise of these ‘value creators’. When values, vision and purpose resonate in products and places you achieve a truly integrated ‘brand’, and markets are made. The integrated design sector contributes around $2.7 billion each year to the South Australian economy. Support and grow this sector and we all benefit in better buildings, spaces, products, brands, services and environment.
But inspired design doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The policies we set, and the processes we use when we ask designers, architects, planners and engineers to solve problems are as critical as the creativity and innovation of the designer themselves. This is the pointy end. Becoming ‘design-smart’ means re-thinking our policies and programs if we want to grow this important sector, avoid duplication, and do more with less.
Becoming the ‘design-smart’ state will require industry, our universities and all our governments to continually work towards more open,more collaborative and even more daring ways to put peoples needs – not initial cost alone – first.
This is really at the core of what the Integrated Design Strategy is about (www.5000plus.net.au). Beyond the 179,000 online interactions, the workshops and 12 months of constructive debate about what our future could be, the Premier wants the work of the Commission to be owned even more broadly and shares our hope that a model can be found to continue the energy, advice and research of the Commission in 2013. Design is everywhere. And we all play a role in demanding and delivering inspired, integrated and innovative design in our policies, products and places.
Original article as printed in the Advertiser, 4 June 2012, Becoming SA – a design-smart state