Recently I decided to undertake a project to start a new design community in the South East of Ireland with three other colleagues. This was prompted by a sense of physical disconnection from other designers in the region, and also a perceived need to have a stronger design involvement in the business world in the area. The setting up took some work, and we are now ready to launch fuse:d in a couple of weeks' time on the 16th June 2016.
Recent events proved my hunch and feelings to be ell founded. I recently had a meeting with a government agency tasked with supporting local enterprises to see what support was available to small design businesses setting up. At that meeting I discovered that as graphic designers not involved in making a product, we are not eligible for any financial support. We also do not get indirectly supported by way of promotion of services to other business that are being funded by the agency. This was is counterproductive, both for the designers, but also for those same supported businesses, and for the region. Consequently some of those businesses got their design work done outside of the are which did not generate any work for local designers.
The second instance where I felt we were on the right path in setting up fuse:d was at a recent workshop about employment creation in three target fields: food, technology, and design. Again, the same issue of no support came to light, but wasn't really discussed in any meaningful and constructive way. But, most worryingly, there was an obvious lack of understanding and awareness of what professional design is. Mostly, it was confused with designer-makers or crafts, and again if it was a service—it wasn't considered a 'job creation potential of scale' so it wasn't considered constructively either. This is at a workshop for job creation at a regional level! It was disappointing to hear.
Mostly though it pushed me to consider where fuse:d is going and why it exists. The two samples above made me realise that yes, fuse:d is needed more than ever, and that yes, we as designers in a service industry must start working together to have our voices heard! LOUDLY! If we don't, we will stagnate and keep being placed in a limbo world of little recognition and no value.
On a funny point, that same government agency is supporting and funding the setting up of fuse:d, as the setting up of networks is seen as a key objective in their job creation plan.