That aside, The top 50 British Designers in this weekends Guardian magazine raises some interesting questions about design heirachies. Billed as ‘Britains Best 50 Designers’ the list is surely flawed on many levels. It features, in Graphics alone, Saville, but no Brody or Barnbrook, Johnson but no Ellery, Kerr Noble and GTF but no Goggins, Eatock or DeBondt. It is also suprisingly thin on architects and is largely London-centric, bar the grimly predictable inclusion of Timorous Beasties. I raise this, not because I think these people should or shouldn’t have been included, and not to do down any of the designers featured as they are all excellent in their own ways, but to question the (perhaps unintentional) dishonest and pejorative nature of a ‘top 50’ or ‘best’ designers list and to bemoan the massive wasted opportunity for an article actually about design (i.e. featuring some opinion/content/discussion) in a mainstream non-design magazine, looking at it’s current staus within British life and culture. Instead we get the design equivalent of the ’50 best guitar solos*’ feature you see in Q magazine when the writers have run out of ideas for actual articles.
It also raise knock-on questions for the whole role of awards within the industry – for a discipline supposedly at the heart of Britains new brain-powered economy, we seem to display a startling lack of self confidence resulting in a demand for peer review and approval on an almost fortnightly basis, deciding who has employed the ‘best’ use of typography at this award ceremony, or who has masterplanned the ‘best’ urban regeneration scheme at that award bash. If anything this has re-invigorated my interest in setting up the Scottish Design Non-awards Non-heirachical Statement of Existence in 2008 – Watch this space.
*Incidentally, it’s Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses on Sweet Child O Mine, and if anyone disputes that then you’re clearly wrong.