When design promotion makes a national impact

For design to make a meaningful difference to the state of a nation’s economic wellbeing takes commitment from a variety of role players, including the government, private sector, the creative fraternity and the general public.
The Republic of Ireland is an example where this mix of interest groups has created a vibrant design culture that permeates throughout the nation. On macro level the government shows a clear commitment to the arts, culture and creative sectors. A 2009 study reported that employment dependent on Ireland’s arts, culture and creative sectors combined was 170,000, or 8.7% of total employment in the economy. Taking into account economic multipliers, the same study estimated the value added dependent on the arts, culture and creative sectors was €11.8 billion, or 7.6% of total GNP and that these sectors were globally one of the fastest growing, representing 7% of global GDP and growing at 10% per annum.
On a smaller scale, local authorities in Ireland are also committed to design. So, for example, is the Kilkenny Design Centre, adjacent to the National Craft Gallery, in this southern Irish city a hub of activity with exhibitions, working designers and crafters, shops, galleries and more.
The retail sector is also a committed role player in punting Irish design. An example is Kilkenny, a huge shopping emporium with 13 stores across Ireland that focuses exclusively on Irish designed products. In 2013 this shopping concept celebrated its 50th year in business, promoting Irish design and supporting Irish artists and crafts people. The shop’s philosophy is to offer customers a modern and contemporary interpretation based on the best of Irish traditions.
South Africa could do well to learn some lessons from the commitment to design shown by this European country. It all boils down to a design culture being created and the value of design recognised across all sectors.