Visits to Design Miami; the London Design Festival and the Milan Mobile (where Local Heroes was invited to discuss Scottish design by Design Language), brings us face-to-face with inspiration and other design obsessives. Currently in Scotland – opportunities to see, connect with and buy high quality design is limited in the public sphere (there are more stockists of high quality, contemporary Scottish design products in Tokyo than at home). No other art form is less understood or celebrated than design. Yet Scotland excels in many design sectors – and has the capability and expertise to make design one of our country’s key high-quality cultural exports.
Our research into the origins of design nations reveals what benefits the development of a design culture has brought Finland, Japan, Norway, Korea, and Singapore. Finland credits the introduction of its design policy with lifting the country out of its late 1980s recession. Design there is supported by the state in several ways including being part of cultural exports around the world alongside architecture, music and sports. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy supports the use of design in small and middle-sized enterprises on a national level. The pairing of design and innovation is a policy.
Cultivating a design culture could involve extracting value from Scotland’s cultural characteristics. Design curator and practitioner Kenya Hara believes that Japanese designers need to consider how to create – or design– value, to think of culture as a resource.
“When we typically think of resources we think of materials and minerals,” Hara says,“but a resource can also be aesthetic, or even cultural.” Whether in the form of jewellery as social commentary or radical furniture that connects audiences to conversations about design, the platforms for discussion and space for experimentation must be expanded in line with design nations like Denmark, Finland or Italy.
Before Droog, the second ‘d’ in Dutch design was lower case – and referred to what was then the Netherland’s best known design export – typography. After the establishment of Droog in 1993 Dutch Design gained a capital ‘D’ and a whole culture of design assembled. Founders Gijs Bakker and Renny Ramakers began by bringing irreverent, humorous furniture to the Milan Furniture Fair – but underpinning Droog has always been a commitment to innovation, creativity and discussion. Their legacy is continued by Wendy Plomp the super- connector behind Dutch Invertuals – both organisations are heroes to us.