Design Can Add Value Across Irish Society, Culture and the Economy

Companies that prioritise good design outperform their competitors, no matter what sector they operate in.

That’s according to Professor Alex Milton, Head of Design at the National College of Art and Design, which today announced details of a major international conference that will be hosted by the NCAD in November. 

The conference will bring together members of Cumulus, the International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, which has member institutions from nearly 50 different countries.  The focus of the three-day event (7th to 9th November) will be ‘design in an age of austerity’. 

A number of leading designers will address the conference, including Paul Adams, an NCAD graduate who has played a key role in design for major global brands like Facebook and Google, and the visionary German designer Werner Aisslinger.

Announcing the conference programme today, Professor Milton said: “Across the world, design-led companies are outperforming their competitors.  This has long been acknowledged in countries like Germany, Holland and Italy.  Whether it’s the technology industry, car manufacturing or textiles, these countries understand the power of great design, and openly acknowledge that companies need to achieve excellence in design to compete.

“In Ireland, there is room for progress.  We tend to think of design purely in terms of aesthetics.  This is outdated and misinformed.  Good design isn’t just about how something looks; it’s about how it works and adds value.       

“Design has a key role to play in adding value across all industries, and in addressing present-day economic challenges.  Designers don’t just produce furniture, hats and ornaments; they develop products, services and methods that lead to improved living and working conditions, as well as time and cost efficiencies.  If we prioritise good design across all sectors of the Irish economy, it will increase our global competitiveness and quicken our economic recovery.   

“The Cumulus conference is a major international event, which will bring together some of the most internationally-renowned design academics and researchers, as well as leading designers.  Effectively, it will shine a spotlight on Irish design on a world stage.  This is an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the importance of design to Irish industry, and to promote the fact that – as a nation – we can also excel in this area. 

“Ireland has long been producing designers who establish leading reputations at international level.  We are home to companies that design products for some of the best-known brands on the globe.  We need to do more to promote the fact that we excel at design – and we need to recognise that there’s huge potential for the Irish economy in this area.  If we promote and prioritise design, I have no doubt but that it will add value across all sectors of Irish life.”

Conference Programme
In addition to keynote addresses by Paul Adams and Werner Aisslinger, the NCAD’s Cumulus conference will also feature research presentations, networking opportunities and workshops on topics such as ‘Disruptive design’ and ‘Design for social innovation and new economics’. 

In his keynote address, Paul Adams is expected to focus on how the internet is the single biggest driver of change since the Industrial Revolution, while Werner Aisslinger will address the topic of ‘design in the age of sustainability’. 

“This conference hopes to stimulate discussion on how design can respond to today’s fiscal constraints, and stimulate growth and renewal in our economy, culture and society,” said Professor Alex Milton.  “You can’t impose austerity on the imagination.  The Cumulus event will explore how design – traditionally an area associated with high costs and sometimes even luxury – can remain innovative and relevant in recessionary times.

“A number of leading design research networks will meet at Cumulus Dublin to share their work, attract new research partners, and to continue to develop design thinking as a mechanism for economic recovery and enhanced societal change.”

The Cumulus conference will run from 7th to 9th November on the NCAD campus and in nearby venues.  It will coincide with Dublin Design Week, which runs from 4th to 10th November.  The conference is open to members of the public to attend.  For further information, go to: