According to news reports, this derelict building, and its surrounding area, are going to be transformed into a “multimillion-pound enterprise zone” which will “lure creative, digital, design companies with a tax break and super-fast broadband.” You can find out more if you click the photo, or via this link to the BBC story here.
Now while this is undeniably a good thing, I remain consistently baffled by the government (local and national) belief that if they say ‘creative’, and ‘design’ and most importantly ‘digital’ on a regular basis, then that will be enough to guarantee success and drive us out of recession. I’m baffled not because I don’t believe in those businesses - after all, I’m a director of one, Goram & Vincent, which is all three. But what this seems to ignore, in my view, is that in order to succeed, businesses like ours need clients - businesses and brands - to be creative ‘on’. We need, to list some of our current ones - cider manufacturers, skateboard importers, adventure companies - who want to partner with us, and pay us money for our creativity, design and digital expertise. Without those clients - we don’t exist.
So rather than desperately imagining a future where creative, design and digital hipsters (so cool that they can grow beards of which local legend W G Grace would have been proud, and are making so much money that they don’t need shoes) - perhaps the government (and the media) would be better off trying to attract businesses that make actually stuff for people to buy, or provide really dull but essential and profitable services? Then, we bearded and shoeless, creative, design and digital types can sidle up to them in a coffee shop and offer to help them with that stuff they’re making or the dull but essential service that people need. It’s not as sexy, and doesn’t sound as exciting, but it might, ultimately, be a more profitable approach.
It’s not often a bus shelter makes the news. When they do, it’s usually because it’s been the scene of some appalling incident - a murder, assault, or the decoupling of teenagers whose jaws have become locked due to over vigorous snogging. But today, in Bristol, bus stops have stopped the press, and made the news. For we now have 40 artistic shelters that the local bus operator hopes we will VISIT and as reported online
“They want the public to post pictures of themselves at the bus stops – some of which have spaces to put your face – on a specially designed Facebook page. If they do they could win an iPad2, as part of a marketing gimmick to promote the ten new showcase bus routes.”
Though easy targets for Friday afternoon outrage and satire, let’s leave aside the ‘oh gawd not another i-pad prize comp’ or the incredible lunacy that anyone might do a tour of bus stops. What is more interesting, from a design and brand point of view is the attitude toward the use of art and creativity in public spaces and utilities. As the news story goes on to say “Bristol’s head of transport Councillor Tim Kent defended the shelters. He said: “We’ve done an £80 million infrastructure project, and we’re spending £40,000 on showcasing that. They look really good, it makes the shelters more attractive.”
Does this mean that art, creativity, and design were not integral to the £80 million pound project, but rather were to be used as a £40k ‘add on’ for PR and marketing purposes? It certainly sounds like it. Which is in stark contrast to one of the least well known, but utterly brilliant and inspiring ‘clients’ of the last century - Frank Pick.