What form should Canada’s national design policy take?

Designing Innovation: A Proposal For Future Policy Direction (Dorland, 2012) builds off of the initial discussions started in 2010 about the need for a Canadian National Design Policy. This working paper explores various forms of creative policies using case studies from Europe, the USA and England, and suggests that a hybrid of innovation, creative industries and design policy models would best serve Canada’s goal of aligning and enlisting the power of the design sector with the growth of innovation in our economy.

As this paper was written before the publication of State of Design: The Canadian Report (Government of Canada, 2010), it reflects the call for a national design policy and not the further discussion in the field.

Designing Innovation: A Proposal For Future Policy Direction.

AnneMarie Dorland

Design policies are instigators of social and economic change in many countries around the world, creating a support network for the growth of a specific sector of the creative industries, which, as economists Andari, Potts and Tepper have outlined, can indirectly but effectively, aid in the growth of the larger economy through their contribution to innovation (Andari, Bakhshi, Hutton, O’Keefe, & Schneider, 2007; Potts, Cunningham, Hartley, & Ormerod, 2012; Tepper, 2002). And it is a design policy that the Canadian federal government has proposed should be developed to guide and grow this important sector of Canada’s creative industry. But what form should this policy take? Given Canada’s current innovation policy rich environment, could an existing innovation support model be applied to the encouragement of design as an innovation sector within our economy? In addition to an examination of current understandings of the relationship between the design industry (and the creative industries more broadly) and innovation-related economic growth, this paper will explore three case studies of different design policy models at work from the UK, the European Union and the U.S.A. Using these examples, I will argue that the design sector in the Canadian setting can be classified not only as an enabler of innovation but as an innovation industry unto itself, and that though a traditional innovation policy model predicated on the funding of research and development (Creutzberg, 2011) would be problematic when applied to the design sector, a modified innovation policy model in the form of a creative industries policy could indeed be successfully adapted to answer the federal governments call here at home.

Design Policy and the Canadian Context

The expressed charge of the Canadian National Design Policy initiative is to increase the role of design in the development of areas such as sustainable innovation, environmental leadership and Canadian cultural identity (Sannella, 2011). The requested series of policy and funding recommendations, once developed on behalf of the Federal Government, are intended to provide standards and guidelines related to access, environmental and social impact, and research support for the development of new product and communication design in Canada as a strategic tool for economic development, innovation and productivity (Government of Canada, 2013). The development of an organizational body intended to support, mobilize and advocate for the innovative potential of the design industry is not a unique initiative: several of these policy generating organizations exist today. They act to support the growth of the creative industries and innovation within the larger economy, to integrate design into business and innovation practices, and to mobilize political action in nations such as England, Japan, Finland, Denmark, the U.S.A and Australia [2]. As social economists and urban geographers Potts and Cunningham have outlined in their work on the economic impact of the creative industries in Australia, a robust and well-supported national policy for creative industries serves the growth of the innovation focused economy, and can be proven to provide a positive impact on other major economic indicators as well (Potts, 2012). Design policy organizations in England (The Design Council), the U.S.A (U.S National Design Policy Initiative) and Europe (European Design Leadership Board) work to make recommendations regarding industry support to government, to connect design initiatives with business for economic growth, to standardize aspects of design production in order to improve environmental, cultural and social impact, and to celebrate and support design initiatives that examine non market-driven problems within the community.

Currently, Canada does not have a policy for design, nor does it have a formalized promotional or supportive organizational body charged with the growth and development of the design industry in our country [3]. What do exist are two forms of policy that buttress the design industry: a short list of cultural policy models as applied to the arts and an excess of policies and formal recommendations related to science and technology focused innovation in the Canadian economy [4]. Unfortunately, both models can be problematic when applied to the design industry sector.

Our first model, the cultural or arts policy, focuses on social support for extra-market activities, and fails to promote or nurture the industry as an innovation sector. According to Miller and Yudice, “cultural and arts policy is often regarded as a means to protect artists from the uncertainly of the market by providing institutional supports that channel both aesthetic creativity and collective ways of life” (Miller & Yudice, 2002, p. 1). This policy model, though effective in the support of the arts in many forms, does not address the role of design in the origination, adoption and retention of innovation within the economy and as such, does not satisfy the charge of the federal government in the development of a policy to guide and support the design industry.

On the other side of the spectrum lies Canada’s traditional innovation policy models. These too are problematic when applied to the support and growth of the design sector. The results of the long list of innovation policies currently in place here in Canada has been described as negligible within our economy, and the policy model most generally applied – one characterized by a focus on funding for research and development, promotion of specialized products and capital investments for small science and technology focused businesses — has been criticized on the whole for failing to make a noted impact. As Tijs Creutzberg, Program Director at the Council of Canadian Academies and expert in policy issues associated with innovation, science and research notes:

“Canadian firms are regularly outperformed in terms of innovation. Such poor performance is not for want of policy attention. Innovation has been on the forefront of policy discussions for over twenty years now, and has resulted in a myriad of new initiatives and strategies from various governments, and departments—yet Canadian firms continue to underperform in innovation when benchmarked against rivals.” (Creutzberg, 2011)

What I will suggest in this paper is that though Canada has a wealth of innovation based policy models, which could at a technical level be adapted to apply to the design sector, we would be well advised to stay away from attempting to apply them in the case of Canada’s National Design Policy initiative. I will propose that a traditional innovation policy model would be problematic when applied to the creative industries due to a fundamental difference between the practices of engineering (upon which the majority of innovation policies are predicated) and design. A successful model for design policy in Canada must be constructed based on a properly defined conception of the role of the creative industries in creating economic growth through innovation, and must also incorporate the unique differences between design practice and those of more traditionally defined innovation sector industries.

The Creative Industries and Design

When we talk about the creative industries in general, and the design industry specifically, what is it exactly that we are describing? Cultural economists Du Gay and Pryke explain that the creative economy cuts a broad swath through the larger economic landscape and that it should be approached

 “…through the concept of the creative workforce, and this can be understood as the total of creative occupations within the core creative industries (specialists) plus the creative occupations employed in other industries, for example designers or media producers working for mining companies or government departments (embedded) plus the business and administrative occupations employed in creative industry that are often responsible for managing, accounting for, and technically supporting creative activity (support)” (Du Gay, 1997).

This in itself is overbroad for the purposes of this examination of the relationship between design and innovation as seen within the framework of policy, and so I suggest that we position design within the creative industries as well, using a definition put forth by the Creative Industries Mapping task force in the UK in 2001 as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity’s skill and talent which have a potential for job and wealth creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS., 1998, 2001). This definition encompasses 13 industry sectors, and positions the design industry as an industry powered by creativity as input value and intellectual property as output result (Lash & Urry, 1994), which includes the conception, development and implementation of communications, experiences, products and systems[5]. In Canada today, the design industry defined as above and including such specific sectors as industrial design, graphic design, service design and experience design has grown to $2.8 billion in 2011 (increasing by 2.4% since 2010), with graphic design taking responsibility for 47% of all specialized design services revenues (Government of Canada, 2013). The contribution of design industries to the wider economy has been examined by Bakhshi et al., (2008), Potts (2008) and Throsby(2010) and in general it is agreed that investment and support of this sector instigates growth in innovation-based measurements of the larger economy.

As Bruce Nusbaum, Professor of Innovation and Design and design theorist has declared, “When people talked about innovation in the ‘90s, they really meant technology. When people talk about innovation in this decade, they really mean design” (Nussbaum, 2005). Could it be so simple? Could one conflate design and innovation into one single form, empowering this term with the ability to describe changes to not only social life but aesthetic practice as well? It would seem that this joining of ‘design’ and ‘innovation’ has yet to happen: the impacts of the design industries are often framed within the “enabling technology” model, where creative industries in general are seen to provide services that are enablers of innovation, rather than providers of innovation on their own. The framework we use to understand design’s relationship with innovation often emphasizes the urban geography that contributes to creative and innovative ‘clusters’ or ‘quarters’ (Currid, 2007).

We can see many cases where innovation has been shown to act upon the creative industries: Castañer and Campos(2002) have examined the role of organizational variables on artistic innovation, Handke(2007) and Tether(2003) have demonstrated innovation practices in the media industries and Miles and Green (2008) have unpacked the role of ‘hidden innovation’ in the creative industries (list adapted from Potts, 2009). However, the attribution of innovation to the creative industries does not, in itself, render them different than any other part of the economy – though design industries may be creative, if we rely on the DCSM definition of the creative industries as those that output intellectual property and consume creativity, they may not be more or less innovative than any other (Andari et al., 2007) How then can we understand the relationship between design and innovation to include design as innovation?

The bridge between our understanding of innovation and design may lie in the application of the term ‘soft innovation’. As Stoneman explains in his work Soft Innovation: Economics, Aesthetics and Creative Industries

“There is a type of innovation, here labeled ‘soft innovation’, primarily concerned with changes in products (and perhaps processes) of an aesthetic or intellectual nature, that has largely been ignored in the study of innovation prevalent in economics. The realization of the existence of soft innovation means that, not only is innovation more widespread than previously considered, but that it may also take a different form than commonly considered.” (Stoneman, 2010).

By including the output of sectors such as design within a definition of innovation-based sectors more broadly, Stoneman addresses a gap within the technological product and processes model of innovation support mobilized within innovation policy in Canada – a model that focuses on implementing technologically new or significantly technologically improved products or processes – and provides space within our understanding of innovation to include design [6].

A commonly held criticism of Stoneman’s argument is the tacit assumption that an existing innovation policy model (one based on the funding of research and development activities, support for the launch of new products and growth of small businesses within science and engineering) could then support the design industry in the same way that it does more traditional models of engineering and product development (Eltham, 2013). I believe that we are well served to question Stoneman’s position on this matter – it would seem that as the majority of Canada’s existing innovation policy models focus on the introduction of research and development funding and the measurement of product and patent based outcomes, an innovation policy traditionally geared towards engineering and product development would in fact not be an appropriate solution for the support and nurturing of this creative industry which trades in far less concrete an output and which, as we will see, conceptualizes research and development in a much different way. In examining the applicability of an innovation policy model (primarily developed to support engineering based innovation) to the support of the design industry in Canada, we must first investigate whether the terms of ‘engineering’ and ‘design’ are homologous.

The Design and Engineering Dialectic

The widely held view of the difference between designers and engineers appears to be related to the end product: designers make things look good, and engineers make them work. Within this widely accepted paradigm, the designer descends from the artist, the engineer from the scientist. Designers have long relied upon this social construction to explain their fundamental purpose – legendary designer Tibor Kalman once declared the designer to be “the representative almost a missionary, of art, within the world of business(Kalman & Jacobs, 1990).

As industrial designer and design theorist Ian Curry has suggested, this traditional view creates a stark contrast between the designer and business, and more importantly it also sets apart the designer and the engineer (Curry, 2013). By accepting this dualist framework, we further the notion that the fundamental differences between designers and engineers are based on right-brain, left-brain splits: the designer is one who ‘feels’ for the right solution, and the engineer ‘thinks’ of the correct way to solve a problem.

This reliance on this conception of designers and engineers is problematic for several reasons, most notably because it denies space for exceptions such as celebrated engineer Peter Rice, who was responsible for the fulfillment of designed marvels such as the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou. His work is testament to the power of integrating the considerations of the designer into the work of the engineer: his career was built upon integrating the ‘feel’ or the ‘look’ that is commonly the creative worker’s territory into his innovative solutions to engineering problems (Rice, 1996).

But even Rice has suggested that there is a fundamental difference between how designers and engineers solve problems, and engage in their daily practice. He understood that designers “work essentially from within themselves. They respond to a design challenge by seeking to understand how they respond to the context and essential elements of the problem: their response is essentially subjective.” As contrast, he suggested that “…the engineer, when faced with a design challenge, will transform it into one that can be tackled objectively. As an example, an engineer might seek to change the problem into an exploration of how to exploit a particular material completely within the context of architecture” (Rice, 1996, originally quoted in Curry, 2013). His definition of the difference between the work of designers and engineers is related to constraint: according to Rice, the designer works to shape the constraints of the problem to his final solution, the engineer to search for a solution to a problem by applying successive limitations until only one solution is possible – in effect shaping the solution to the imposed constraints (Rice, 1996).

Rice offers us a way out of the simplified understanding of designers as those who make things ‘look good’ and the engineers as those who make ‘them work’: with the incorporation of forms of practice as a variable in this equation we can see that the true difference between engineers and designers (or at a larger scale, those best supported through innovation policy and those best supported through a design policy) lies in their form of problem identification – the research and development phase of their practice. And it is here that the primary difference in policy and support models becomes clear: innovation policy models are predicated on the existence of a ‘research and development’ phase that is designated as pre-commercial – a designation that Potts suggests “signals a domain of opportunities better organized through public investment rather than a market context” (Potts, 2009, p. 141). Conversely, the creative industries, and design industries in particular, incorporate this phase of work into their market offering and into their daily practice in the studio, positioning ‘research and development’ not as a public good, but as part of a normal business model (Davis, Creutzberg, & Arthurs, 2009). This asymmetry in our conception of ‘research and development’ within these two industries highlights the reason that a formal innovation policy model, such as the many already developed in Canada, could not possibly provide the support required for the advancement of creative and design industries. The tools provided in the traditional innovation policy model, specifically support for a research and development process that without assistance would be forgone due to economic requirements, are simply not applicable to the context of design practice that is not automatically built upon a research and development phase.

The Creative Industries Policy Model

With this differentiator of ‘practice’ in mind, could we perhaps modify a traditional innovation policy to meet the federal governments aims for the support of the design industry? Is the industry forever lost in the chasm between cultural and innovation policy support? Or is a third framework required: one which differs from existing models of cultural or innovation policies? Such a model has been suggested in the form of a ‘creative industries policy’ by Potts and Cunningham, a suggestion supported by previous explorations of this field provided by Florida (2012), Arturs, Cassidey Davis and Wolfe (2009), Davis et al (2009) and Throsby (2010). The ‘creative industries policy’ model allows for an understanding of the design sector as one that is framed by three stages of innovation process: the origination phase (related to the development of innovation technologies), the adoption phase (helping ideas enter the social world) and the retention phase (including construction and normalization of new identities associated with particular innovation) (Potts, 2009). This model creates a space for Stoneman’s conception of ‘soft innovation’ as the bridge between cultural and traditional innovation models of policy.

Creative industry policy models have been successfully applied in the form of design policy in areas such as Europe, the U.S.A and the UK to encourage growth and support within the design industry, increasing its value as an engine for the origination of innovation within the traditional economy, and expanding its roles related to the adoption and retention of new ideas. Of course, no one policy model will work for all, and each must tailor a design policy for their nation to their existing conception of what the creative industries (and the design sector specifically) contribute to their economy and their innovation framework.

To this end, Potts and Cunningham present four models of how economies position the role of their creative industries as related to innovation and economic growth, each with an attendant policy model recommendation in their work Four Models of the Creative Industries (2008): the welfare model, the competition model, the growth model and the innovation model. By mobilizing these four models of the creative industries to explore and categorize case studies of the work of three existing innovation focused design policy organizations, my hope is that we should be able to uncover a design policy model that would best support the Canadian federal government’s charge.

Case study 1: U.S National Design Policy Initiative

The American design policy initiative (U.S. National Design Policy Initiative: Design in Service of America’s Economic Competitiveness and Democratic Governance) was initiated in 2009 as the third iteration of American Design Policy in the nation’s history [7]. The U.S National Design Policy Initiative is focused on networking design professionals with worthy projects, creating policy recommendations for the government, reporting on the activities of the industry, and holding summits intended to further the goals of the organization. Building on the work done by previous assemblies regarding the role of design in the success of federal initiatives related to economic competitiveness (through the launch of new products and patented innovations) and democratic governance (through the development of national museums, parks, and initiatives), the current U.S. National Design Policy Initiative has published two key documents aimed at furthering its goals.

The first, Report of the U.S. National Design Policy Summit (Grefe et al., 2009), proposed a series of recommendations to the U.S. congress including the support of design promotion for economic competitiveness, the support of innovation policy for economic competitiveness, the support of design standards for democratic governance and the support of policy as a designed vehicle, specifically, “the role of design in the formation, understanding and implementation of policy” for democratic governance(U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, 2012). This mass of proposals were then crafted into 62 unique recommendations to the federal government which were then further honed using four criteria: value to the American people, value to the design community, operational feasibility and political feasibility [8]. These proposed design policy initiatives included recommendations such as the continued support for redesign of the electoral ballot through the American Institute for Graphic Arts Design for Democracy initiative, modifications to the patent process to reflect the specific types of intellectual property created by designers, the establishment of national grants to support community design assistance programs, targeting 2030 for the development of carbon neutral buildings, the creation of promotional videos and materials of U.S. based CEO’s promoting American design, and the promotion of interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships between design, engineering and the social sciences (U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, 2012, p. 20 – 25).

The second published outcome of the organization’s work, Redesigning America’s Future (U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, 2012), introduced ten design policy proposals in the form of a policy brief for the 111th Congress and the Obama-Biden administration. Several of the outlined proposals have been initiated on behalf of the Policy Initiative organization including the implementation of an American Design Council to partner with the U.S. Government, the setting of guidelines for legibility, literacy and accessibility for all government communications, investigations into modifications to the patent process, and the commissioning of a report to measure and document design’s contribution to the U.S. economy (U.S National Design Policy Initiative, 2012).

To date, these two reports, and the summit meeting from which they originated, form the bulk of the output of our first design policy case study. These reports and the initiatives that they generated reflect an understanding of the U.S creative industries, and the design industry specifically, within what Potts and Cunningham have identified as the second quadrant of their model of the dynamic relationship between the creative industries and the rest of the economy – the ‘competition model’ (Potts & Cunningham, 2008). This ‘competition model’ suggests that the creative industries (including design) are simply an industry like any other, such as the entertainment or leisure industry. The assumption within this model related to policy recommendations is that, as creative goods are in essence ‘normal goods’, that the expansion of the creative industries sector would have no benefit to the larger economy than the expansion of any other sector, and that any policy therefore should be similar to that implemented for other industries. We see this reflected here in the forms of adopted recommendations from the original list of hundreds developed by the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative: guidelines for legibility, modifications to the design of the electoral process, and the commissioning of a market report have been supported and furthered by the administration, but the establishment of national grants for basic design research, the modification of the patent process to reflect intellectual property created by designers and the encouragement of direct government investment in design innovation have not. By examining the forms of proposals created by the policy organization that have received support, we are able to see that the U.S. creative industries (and design specifically) are guided by the same forms of policy treatment as any other industry, and receive no more or less assistance than others. As Potts and Cunningham predict, within this model the policy created by the U.S is not about resource reallocation, but instead “consistent industrial policy treatment with respect to international movement of labour and intellectual property” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p.237).

Perhaps as a result of this form of policy treatment, as suggested by Potts and Cunningham, the U.S design industry (as a subset of the creative industries) has remained economically significant, but stable in growth with no direct suggested correlation to the growth of the overall economy (U.S Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2013)

Case study 2: The Design Council

By contrast, Britain’s design policy organization – The Design Council – reflects an entirely different model of economic relationships between overall economic growth and the creative/design industries. The Design Council (which retains its status as a national charitable organization with the mandate of delivering services to government) was founded in 1944 with the objective of promoting “by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry”. Originally focused on the provision of product endorsements, industry services, commercial publishing and retail shop space for designers, their role changed drastically in 1994 with the John Sorrell’s publication of a report titled The Future Design Council, commonly known as The Sorrell Report which positioned the Design Council as a think tank tasked with developing and disseminating new knowledge and inspire action while increasing activities and initiatives. With this new charge, the Design Council developed a revised mission statement: “to inspire the best use of design by the UK in the world context, to improve prosperity and well-being: inspiring audiences to use design” (Design Council UK, 2013).

According to the 2005 Cox Review of Creativity in Business: Building on the UK’s strengths (Design Council UK, 2007), The Design Council was next tasked by parliament to develop a national support programme to help small and medium size enterprises use design, a to create review of the eligibility of design for research and development tax credits, to form centres of excellence in higher education for multi-disciplinary courses combining business and design, to create a new approach for public procurement aimed at increasing innovation through design, and to raise the profile of the creative industries in the UK (Design Council UK, 2005). As Cox outlined in this report, “greater creativity is a key to greater productivity”, echoing commentary by Penny Egan, Executive Director, Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce who claimed that the industry should:

“Innovate or fail. Markets are being transformed, brands are being built, products and services are being re-designed, replaced or developed through innovation. Research shows that businesses which harness creativity and design put themselves at the leading edge. More need to be convinced.” (Design Council UK, 2005)

These remain the guiding principles of the Design Council to this day, and form the basis for all policy regarding the creative industries in the UK. The Design Council manages funding for innovative design solutions (such as a competition for designs to improve the health and well-being of children under the age of five), formulates recommendations to parliament (such as the recommendation of new codes of practice to improve procurement practices), lobbies the government, provides education with the goal of changing curriculum at all levels of schooling to include design and technology, reports to business regarding industry issues, initiates partnerships between business, health, education and designers, showcases leading design and shares advanced thinking and insight on design and innovation through projects such as Design For Public Good and Shared Experience Europe (Design Council UK, 2013).

Based on these outlined roles, we can see that the Design Council UK represents a case study of the third model of the Potts and Cunningham quadrant proposal: the “growth model” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 237). This economic model assumes that the creative industries are “a growth driver in the same way that agriculture was in the twentieth century, elaborately transformed manufacturing was in the 1950s-1960s and ICT was through the 1980s-1990s” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 237). The difference here from our first design policy case study, which formed an example of the competition model, is that the UK has positioned the creative industries as an active participant in the growth of the economy – both on the supply side and the design side. We see evidence for support of this model as suggested by Potts and Cunningham in the association of creative industries with growth in the form of new commodities and services based on the role of the creative industries in the adoption, retention and absorption of new ideas and technologies.

As Potts and Cunningham predicted, within this model the UK has positioned the creative industries as being “good for the economy because they introduce and process the new ideas that drive economic growth” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 238)and policy applied has reflected investment in this industry as a driver of the overall economy and the redirection of resources to these industries for the benefit of all. This has been articulated in the UK through many facets of the Design Council’s work, notably the provision of funding through the organization, the development of partnerships and the formulation of recommendations for industry support delivered to parliament. Within the framework of this form of design policy, as suggested by Potts and Cunningham, investment in the UK design industry (as a subset of the creative industries) has grown alongside the overall economy (Design Council UK, 2013).

Case study 3: Design Strategy for Europe

A clear example of the fourth model of the creative industries, posited by Potts and Cunningham to be the “innovation model” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 238) is to be found in our last case study of design policy in action: the European Union’s Design Strategy for Europe. In 2011, Antonio Tajani, the European Commission vice-president and commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship outlined a set of recommendations at the policy level intended to ensure that design is “at the heart of driving innovation in the European economies” (European Commission on Enterprise and Industry, 2013). The subsequent 2012 report, titled Design for Growth and Prosperity presented a series of 21 recommendations spanning from infringement policy to the fostering of design education within existing academic systems (Thompson & Koskinen, 2012).

The design policy recommendations made by the Board propose six areas for strategic action: the global stage (including identifying and strengthening existing European Design Centres, and creating a ‘Designed in the European Union’ label), Europe’s innovation system (including new methods to measure the growth impact of investment in design, and including design within innovation and business incubators and their networks), Europe’s enterprises (including strengthening design innovation and facilitating access to finance for design-led companies), the public sector (including increasing the use of design and designers in public sector innovation by establishing design labs) the research system (including embedding design research in Europe’s research system) and the education system (including fostering a culture of design learning and encouraging Member States to support the development of design competencies for the 21st century) (Thompson & Koskinen, 2012). As the Design for Growth and Prosperity report outlined, “Never before has so clear an opportunity existed as now, for the European Commission, Member States and regions to take bold action to enable a new level of awareness about the importance of design as a driver of user-centered innovation across Europe” (Thompson & Koskinen, 2012).

These recommendations were enacted in the lead initiative of this project – Design for Growth and Prosperity – a partner initiative between the UK Design Council, the European Design Innovation Initiative (EDII) and the European Design Leadership Board. The European Union Design Strategy for Europe is supported by the council of the European Union, which stated in a series of formal recommendations to the EU Council 2009 that:

“Culture and creativity are inextricably linked. Creativity is at the source of culture which in turn creates an environment that enables creativity to flourish. Creativity in turn, lies at the origin of innovation – understood as a successful exploitation of new ideas, expressions and forms and as a process that develops new products, new services and new ways of running businesses or new ways of responding to social needs. Creativity is therefore of great importance for the innovative capacity of citizens, as well as businesses and societies….and are vital for the competitiveness and development of our economies and our societies” (Council of the European Union, 2009).

In this, the Council of the European Union has positioned their policy support for the creative and design industries firmly within the fourth quadrant of Potts and Cunningham’s 2008 proposal for understanding the relationship of the creative industries to the overall economic health of a nation – the “innovation model” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008). As Potts and Cunningham state, “rather than thinking of the creative industries as an economic subset ‘driving’ growth in the whole economy, as in model three, the creative industries may not be well characterized as an industry per se, but rather as an element of the innovation system of the whole economy” (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 239). When examined in this way, a creative industry that is positioned as an element of the innovation system of an economy, rather than as an industry of its own, would best be supported with policy focused on the facilitation of change at the structural level of the larger economy, and recognition of the “catalytic” role of the creative industry towards economic growth (Potts & Cunningham, 2008, p. 239). We see this model enacted in the European Union’s Design Strategy for Europe through their design strategy recommendations to member states (including recommendations regarding design in Europe’s innovation, enterprise and research systems), and the recommendation of the Council to the Member States and the Commission to “use the already existing financial mechanisms at national and European level (e.g. structural funds) to strengthen the links between creativity and competitive advantage” (Council of the European Union., 2009).

The economic results of this form of policy based support for the design industry, and for creative industries in general are ongoing, and problematic to measure due to the wide range of participation of member states. With that in mind, the European Design Leadership Board has reported that with the implementation of their outlined initiatives, the EU has experienced an increase in innovation-related growth within the larger economy (Design In European Policy, 2013).

Towards a Canadian National Design Policy

As Davis, Creutzberg, & Arthurs have argued, the key difference between the design sector, and the science and technology sector can be identified as the positioning of research and development through the process. Within the science and technology sector the funding and support of research and development makes possible the creation of new and innovative technological products and processes. However, the integration of research and development into the daily studio practice of designers makes it a problematic stage of the design process to fund or incentivize, rendering a traditional innovation policy model extremely problematic when applied to this sector. In addition, as Stoneman has suggested, the role of ‘soft innovation’ within the economy positions the design industry as a generator of true innovation, and not simply as an enabler or provider of source material for other innovative sectors. With these differences between traditional science and technology sectors (including engineering) and design sectors in mind, and with the principle of ‘soft innovation’ as our definition of design innovation, it is clear that any policy developed by the Federal government must take the form of a creative industries policy rather than a traditional innovation policy.

What our three case studies evidence is the clear role that a public cultural positioning of the role of the creative industry within the larger economy plays in the development of an appropriate design policy model. I would suggest that given the similarities between the Canada and the UK’s design industry, and given the nearly identical call to action issued within both the British Design Council’s guiding documents and the Canadian Federal Government’s call for design policy, that our second case study would provide the most applicable example of a creative industries policy model suitable for the Canadian context. Using the model found here (namely Potts and Cunningham’s ‘growth’ model), Canada’s National Design Policy initiative could meet the government’s stated aims (Sannella, 2011), while continuing to accommodate for both the differences in the practice of engineering and design work, and for the unique nature of design based innovation in our economy. By mobilizing this model of creative industries policy, Canada would be able to supplement traditional innovation policies in much the same manner as the UK has positioned the Design Council alongside the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), allowing for the support of both soft innovation and traditional innovation within the economy.


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[1] Estimates provided by the UK’s National Audit Office(Design Council UK, 2013)

[2] Of additional note is the larger governing collective of the European Design Leadership Board (with active policy recommendations currently being implemented in 12 countries).

[3] What Canada does have is the Design Exchange, a display and retail hub found in Toronto, and a variety of private societies such as the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada that serve as industry communities.

[4] The key policies that make up Canada’s innovation strategy include the 1963 Royal Commission on Government Organization (Glassco Commission), the Senate Special Committee on Science Policy’s 1970, A Science Policy for Canada,  the 1985 Government of Canada “A National Science and Technology Policy Background Paper“, the 1987 National Science and Technology Policy, the Secretariat for Science and Technology Review’s, Industry Canada, Building a Federal Science and Technology Strategy developed in 1994, the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology’s Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: A Framework for an Integrated Federal Science and Technology Strategy created in 1995, ,

Government of Canada’s Science and Technology for the New Century: A Federal Strategy, presented in 1996, and Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, delivered in 2007. All are firmly ensconced in the worlds of science and engineering, with little space for the addition of the creative industries (list adapted from Freedman, 2013).

[5] Of additional support for the positioning of the design sector within the larger creative industries are conceptions of the design industry as part of the affect economy (Hardt & Negri, 2004) or the experience economy(Pine & Gilmore, 1999).

[6] According to Tijs: “The federal government makes enormous investments in indirect support for innovation, particularly through the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program, which allows firms to write off part of their research costs… Canada has one of the most generous tax incentive programs for Research and Development (R&D) among OECD countries and a sound research system of universities and public research organizations; neither of which appear to have brought Canada a comparative advantage in innovation” (Creutzberg, 2011).

[7] Previous incarnations of the American National Design Policy Initiative include the U.S. Federal Design Improvement Program of the 1970’s (1972-1981) initiated by former National Endowment of the Arts director, Nancy Hanks and supported by President Jimmy Carter among others, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which was comprised of design policy recommendations for public and private spaces and products (U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, 2012).

[8] A full list of recommendations presented by the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative summit is available at http://www.designpolicy.org/usdp/summit-report.html

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