Design: A restlessness with the status quo

March 19, 2015

The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, is a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue situated in the heart of Glasgow, just off the Style Mile. The Lighthouse promotes design and architecture through a vibrant programme of exhibitions and events. Ian Elder, Manager at The Lighthouse looks at the impact the 15 year old establishment has had on Scotland’s creative industries…

Design relentless status quoAbove everything else, The Lighthouse is an idea, the idea is a simple one; creativity, innovation, and design has a positive impact on the economy, environment and society of Glasgow and Scotland generally.

The Lighthouse, along with a number of other organisations such as; Creative ClydeDesign in Action, and The Institute of Design Innovation at Glasgow School of Art exist to promote or demonstrate the impact of design. The Lighthouse provides a platform for exhibitions and debate, but also looks for ways in which we can support designers, especially in encouraging businesses to embrace design thinking.

Research, both national and international shows that the greatest impact comes when design is not only considered as styling, but is also integrated into a business as part of their strategy. Research by the Design Council has shown that for every £1 a business invests in design they gain over £20 in net turnover and over £5 in net exports.


Image: Lighthouse Late 2014, Alice Dansey-Wright Workshop ®McAteer

There are challenges to overcome; the reality is that Scotland invests significantly less in the Creative Industries than Britain as a whole. The reasons identified in the Cox Report are:

  • A lack of awareness and experience
  • A lack of belief in the value of, or confidence in, the outcome
  • Not knowing where to turn for specialised help
  • Limited ambition or appetite for risk
  • Too many other pressures on the business

A recent report for the Northern Ireland Design Alliance identified another challenge; almost 80% of design businesses there work for organisations within the wider Creative Industries sector. I have not seen any research for Scotland but if the Design Sector is to grow, it cannot be defined by the size of the creative industries alone; it must find ways to engage with business generally.

The idea of promoting the impact of design has run through all versions of the inspiring exhibitions at The Lighthouse; The Scottish ShowSix Cities and MAKLab. These were all ways, to support, enable, and promote the Design Industry.


Image: Lighthouse Late 2014, ®McAteer.

In the coming months we will look for and implement ways to support those businesses within the Creative Industries which are social enterprises or work as cooperatives.  We will introduce ways in which we can encourage businesses to invest in design.

We will continue to lobby for a design policy for Scotland. It is worth noting that Northern Ireland and Wales are already well down this path. It would be fantastic if a Design Policy could be launched in 2016, which would tie in nicely seeing as it’s the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The idea is simple; creativity, innovation and design have a positive impact on the economy, environment and society of Glasgow and Scotland.

The title is a definition of Design given to me by Irene McAra-McWilliams of The Institute of Design Innovation. While she may not remember telling me, it has always stuck with me.

Ian Elder is the manager of The Lighthouse. Follow him on Twitter @IanElderf1 or connect on LinkedIn. Are you looking to host an exhibition or event in The Lighthouse? Take a look at the events website or get in touch with a member of the events team.