Contemplating:  With increasing globalisation and the growing dominance of social media and the web, design and creativity today exists without borders. Such internationalisation of design presents both immense opportunities and challenges for designers and makers, who are navigating how to grow their profile and business domestically, while maximising global opportunity.

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Many questions persist and the issue can be daunting for designers, who often work independently or in small co-operative businesses. Increasing collaboration between international design fairs and weeks, such as Dubai Design Week, Design Days Dubai and Downtown Design, support the process of showcasing work and sharing ideas across borders but how can makers access these platforms?

In addition, do designers today need to be masters of the web and social media? And, what does this mean for practitioners other than the tech savvy millennials generation. Can they stay competitive? Equally, does design without borders erode the vernacular?

That is why we are working to create opportunities to give makers the skills and confidence to export.

Design Days Dubai regular, the Crafts Council (UK), is one such body tackling the issue, having recently announced a new GBP200,000 programme to grow a sustainable international market for British craft. Made Journal talks to Executive Director, Rosy Greenlees, about the importance of exporting design and how designers can grow their international profile and business.

The UK has a large, mature domestic design market, why does the Craft Council consider it important to help makers and designers export their work?

There is a healthy market for craft in the UK but it could be much bigger. We believe more people in the UK and around the world are in the position to buy products designed and made by skilled makers, instead of consuming mass produced items. Makers from the UK have a lot to offer in this global marketplace and we want to help those that want to work internationally, be that exhibitions or export, to achieve their goals.

You’ve recently announced a three-year programme to provide UK makers with support to realise their international potential, what does it involve?

The three year programme we recently receive funding for was to support makers internationally – be that exhibiting, finding representation or knowing more about exporting. We will be running a series of workshops and events on export for up to 200 makers and taking a smaller group to some high-profile markets in the US and Europe over that time.

UK design by Andrea Walsh at Design Days Dubai. Image courtesy of Crafts Council. Photo Francis John Contreras.
UK design by Andrea Walsh at Design Days Dubai. Image courtesy of Crafts Council. Photo Francis John Contreras.

Are there particular areas that you feel makers need support in particularly?

At the moment only 27% of makers in the UK export, which we feel doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of makers, who would like to explore new markets. That is why we are working to create opportunities to give makers the skills and confidence to export.

Crafts Council has attended Design Days Dubai a number of times, with a large presence to boot, why have you chosen to maintain a presence in Dubai and what role do international fairs and festivals play in supporting individual designers global hopes?

We have seen over the last few years that Design Days Dubai is successfully contributing to building the ‘design art’ market in the United Arab Emirates and more widely across the Middle East. When we go out in 2016 that will be our fourth year at the fair – we feel it is really important to build up our reputation there and we feel we are doing that.

As small businesses, designers are expected to where numerous hats, from CEO to creative director to office administrator. You wonder if there is time left to design and create. Is it important that they now also become web and social media specialists? 

Social media presents a real opportunity for makers to speak directly to audiences – clients and customers. They don’t have to be specialists but they should be embedding marketing (how they should be using social media) into their business from the outset.

What about older makers, to whom social media may not come naturally? We think of ourselves here at Made Journal as relatively ‘with it’ but social media moves so fast. Snapchat anyone?

The thing about social media is that so much of it is intuitive and incredibly well designed so once you get going it’s not as challenging as you think. It does move fast but platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram look destined to stay around for a lot longer.

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Max-Lamb-DIY-Furniture-Workshop-Design Days Dubai- Phot Nicola Skinner
UK designer-maker, Max Lamb holds a DIY furniture workshop at Design Days Dubai. Photo Nicola Skinner
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The UK’s Rebecca Gouldson with her designs at Design Days Dubai. Image courtesy of Crafts Council. Photo Francis John Contreras.
The UK's Simone Brewster with her designs at Design Days Dubai. Image courtesy of Crafts Council. Photo Francis John Contreras.
The UK’s Simone Brewster with her designs at Design Days Dubai. Image courtesy of Crafts Council. Photo Francis John Contreras.