Icon 165 – In your Face!
Icon is a monthly magazine focusing on the best, most inspiring buildings, interiors, furnishings and fittings. It also celebrates the design process and the talented designers behind the most innovative work. It can be enjoyed equally by architecture and design professionals, and the design-literate public.
Icon 165 – In your Face! Look at how Barber & Osgerby’s consultancy arm is reinventing the design business model and meet Grafton Architects, the curators of the next Venice Architecture Biennale.
Icon 165: The merging of the worlds of design and entrepreneurship has created a new class of designer – the designpreneur. Irritating portmanteau aside, the term does underline the complexity of the modern design business. In the old days, you designed a product for a company. Said company made, marketed and distributed your product. People bought it and you received royalties. Underpinning the system were two realities: there were fewer designers angling for a slice of the action and a lot more cash swilling around.
The demand for cheap consumer goods, satiated by Far Eastern manufacturing power, means the royalty system – save for a few elite designers – is all but done. Today, the design business is less formulaic and far more immediate. Anyone with a website can display their wares to a global audience, while greater access to more sophisticated manufacturing techniques means you no longer have to convince a company to invest in your product. And, with the advent of crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter, a designer – through artful presentation of their prototype – can gauge the commercial viability of a product and, in the best-case scenario, get it funded.
One studio breaking new ground in this new era of people-power is design consultancy Map, which is our cover story this month. The brainchild of design duo Barber & Osgerby, Map has worked with several companies to help them develop and bring products to market via Kickstarter. In return, Map gets a stake in the business and a fee. Its method parallels the venture capitalist model, though the studio (perhaps rightly) resists this comparison. However you dress it up, one thing is clear: in a hyper-competitive global market, more and more companies are realising that good design is what separates success from failure. Design is the new capital and the new generation should exploit this ruthlessly.