The prince, the priest and the artist

Norman McNally, Head of Product Design, Glasgow School of Art
Michael Thomson, Consultant, Design Connect, London

NM: The Prince, the Priest and the Artist is an exploration of that space that exists between the client — (represented in the image by Lucretia Borgia), the artist (Leonardo Da Vinci) and the Establishment (the rather unpleasant Pope Innocent) which, in our case, symbolises education.

The Prince, the Priest and the Artist as they appear today
While education is undoubtedly becoming more corporate, business in turn has become more collegiate. The result is that we are actually switching places in the way that we deal and work with each other. This can render it very difficult to see across this void and view potential partners. For example, think of the school dance: everyone wants to get involved but no one wants to be first on the floor. The Prince, the Priest and the Artist, then, becomes a metaphor for industry and business, organised education and creative energy.

Shaping contexts
The new Bachelor of Design course at Glasgow School of Art has been established specifically to extend the context of design education. Students are introduced to this part of the programme in their third year — a little more than half way through their four-year programme but not yet in their senior year — because at this point in their studies, they have enough knowledge, perspective, skill and ability to deal with industry in a meaningful way.
Glasgow School of Art has endeavoured to secure contacts within industry throughout the past 15 years, developing projects that are suited to both student and client needs and hopes. Companies we have collaborated with include Cassina, Nokia, and Bulmers, all of whom we have worked with in a specifically creative context: these clients were not looking for professional turnkey solutions.
For example, in 2001 we were contacted by PGR, a consortium of furniture companies in Indonesia, who required an overview of European furniture. They wanted insight into the European industry in order to produce suitable products that they might then go on to sell in Europe. A second project was for Carron Phoenix, part of the Swiss group Franke –Europe’s biggest manufacturer of sinks in both metal and composites. Using these two projects as examples, we thought it would be useful to look at the different preoccupations of this triumvirate of constituents:

  • Industry
  • The artist/student
  • Education
The industry viewpoint
It is inevitable that within these cultural stockades a layer of prejudice will exist. For instance, industry’s view of education can be that it is no more than an ivory tower — where things are locked away, irrelevant, with no real place in the everyday. Industry is also often wary of students. They might take the view that students are unpredictable — scruffy, irreverent characters with an insular ‘arty’ attitude, for instance. Students, many are inclined to believe, are not very business minded, are generally tardy and, on the whole, unprofessional. Of course, these are bold stereotypes but nonetheless, in the process of collaboration, we have observed that these prejudices do exist.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

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