How design makes a difference!

Martin Gaffney was President of the Institute of Designers in Ireland in 2004. The following is an extract from the Presidents Letter summarising a year in the promotion and development of design.

‘The room must look comfortable, the house cosy,

the courthouse must make a threatening impression on the furtive criminal, the bank must say, “Here your money is securely safeguarded by honest people.”’

Czech architect, Adolf Loos


Many people perceive design as being about image and style. But design is not just about the way things look. It is also about the way things are used, how they are communicated to the world and the way they are organised and produced. Design is also important in defining how we feel about the world we live in.


Design is of great importance in society, as a means for achieving business success and in order to enhance the country’s competitive standing. However, Ireland has yet to realise fully the importance and crucial role of design.


The 2002 report of the Irish Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ICSTI) reveals that Irish manufacturers have a low opinion of design, due in part to the lack of a design culture in this country. For example it reports that only 18% of enterprises in the Shannon region actively use design. Many of the issues and problems confronting Ireland are multi-dimensional: an ageing population, skills shortages, increased

competition from the east, high prices, the environment – and more. But the institutions we expect to solve these problems – government, science, education, business and the professions are not multi-dimensional.


Design, therefore, has an important role. Designers use a combination of intuition, understanding and current knowledge to develop innovative solutions. In a world where many new products and services are similar in function and even performance, their design – shape, look and image – can make all the difference.


Since its foundation in 1972, the priorities of the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) have been to represent the interests of designers from different disciplines who practise on the island of Ireland through the promotion of high standards of design and by fostering professionalism and emphasising designers’ responsibility to society, to the client and to one another.


The institute makes every effort on an ongoing basis to devise new ways of serving its members and society. It has put in place strategic affiliations and efficient development and communication systems. Most important of all, designers are actively involved in the institutes activities. One of the core aims of the IDI is to identify new issues that face design practitioners. The calendar of events and initiatives planned by IDI President Martin Gaffney for 2004 reflect the institutes response to these new challenges.


In February 2004 the institute held its AGM in Dublin, soon followed by an evening with the celebrated typographer Bruno Maag in The Vaults at Connolly Station with a riveted capacity audience. On March 4th Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism John O’Donohue launched the innovative Shamrock Uncovered

project in The National Museum. This project was a design research response to the theme of globalisation and the importance of recognising country symbols as a means of

retaining national identity. In April, representatives from the IDI visited Bosnia as guests of ULUPUBIH The Association of

Applied Artists and Designers of Bosnia, it was s tremendous success and heralded a new international link between the designers of both countries.


IDI and ICAD jointly presented ‘Dubbel’ Dutch in late April, a highly commended talk and series of workshops with a show of work by Dutch graphic design firms UNA Amsterdam and Thonik. The event also showed the benefits of working together for the betterment of the design profession.


Events in May and June included visits by The Norwegian Design Council and ECIA The European Council of Interior Architects. The publication and launch of a number of important IDI publications included The revised IDI professional code of conduct, an introductory booklet on design for School

Leavers and ‘Why design’ a basic guide to the value design in business.


Continuing through the summer, events included a presentation on ‘pro bono creative design commissions’ by Ciaran O’Gaora, Zero G and Fashion designer, Joanne Hynnes showed her work in Dublin and Limerick, and the IDI organised a series of mini-seminars to businesses in Counties Cavan and Galway in conjunction with the GDBA.


The annual William H Walshe lecture took place in September as will a presentation and debate with architect Tom de Paor. October in Belfast saw the return of celebrated multi-media

designer Daljit Singh for a joint presentation with the 2003 IDI Grand prix winners Inferno.


The IDI presented a major exhibition in October and November 2004, as part of design week, the institute also welcomed renowned designer Angus Hyland of Pentagram London to address members.


The novel ‘Test of Time’ a public creative design exhibition in conjunction with the Chambers of Commerce travelled around the country to Sligo, Letterkenny and Cork and the IDI  presented ‘Fashion Able’ an innovative fashion event aimed at persons with physical challenges.


The IDI mounted an exhibition in December 2004 of the entries to the ‘Sell yourself’ competition and displayed at O’Sullivan Graphics, Dublin and at Christmas the ever-popular Art Auction for charity hosted by Senator David Norris took place at The Origin Gallery.


The continuous design dialogue that occurs in the IDI was formalised in 2004 and took the form of monthly design themes, with issues that confront designers being discussed vigorously by members and non-members. The IDI council met on the first Wednesday of every month at 8 Merrion Square Dublin.


During 2004 themes include creativity, professional practice, insurance in design, membership, design education, design,

affiliations, starting out, design for all, regional design and sponsorship.


Having run a graphic design practice for over 20 years IDI President Martin Gaffney understood the challenges of

operating a business let alone a design business in Ireland and the difficulties associated with selling design in a non-design culture. Gaffney's belief was that attitudes were changing, even if slowly.


The persistent ‘missionary-like’ efforts of Irish design professionals down the years have paid dividends with design slowly being integrated into mainstream business as more designers establish themselves throughout the country.


Gaffney echoed the call of other design profession representatives for the development of a government policy on design and for the introduction of financial supports to encourage small and medium enterprises to use design actively in their business.



Extract from IDI President’s Letter by Martin Gaffney FIDI.

IDI Axis Newsletter 2004

IDI Past Presidents; Martin Gaffney and Selma Harrington


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