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For the first time in its 25 year history, the Design Business Association is set to include clients as members. The DBA passed the resolution at its Annual General Meeting on Monday 2 July 2012, an event which was then followed by 25th Anniversary celebrations at the Heron Tower, London. It has been announced that seven founding client business members have been chosen. These are- Diageo, Buro Happold, HSBC Private Bank, Nestle, GSK Glaxo SmithKline, Arup and Virgin Atlantic.

The DBA explains that these companies have joined the association “because they recognize the value of design, because they want to be a part of our industry, they want to learn from us and they want to share with us”.

The Design Business Association is an establishment that focuses on the effectiveness of design by developing partnerships between commerce and the design industry. With three main aims in mind the DBA strives to:

Bring business to design
Bring design to business
Bring design to the government

The association states that the intention of these objectives is simply to “promote professional excellence” which in turn “improves the quality of people’s lives”.

In addition to this, the work of the DBA provides UK design with access to the knowledge and ability to hone skills in line with the business process of the industry itself. Providing an opportunity for designers and consultancies to strengthen their business stature, the DBA lists Performance, People and Profile as the three areas that matter most in this field.

Outside of the founding members client membership will be quite open. The client membership initiative has grown from last year’s move to set up a client advisory body for its directory, a group which included representatives from Buro Happold, Yell and BT amongst others. This DBA directory consisted of an online database of design groups registered with the association.


Members are invited to broaden their business horizons with networking events, gaining an insight into the DBA’s Code of Conduct and attending training initiatives. Written, produced and delivered by design experts, the tailor-made design business assistance of the DBA is put together by those at the forefront of the industry. As pointed out by Design Week, this means that “for existing DBA members the move provides a link to clients, while for the potential client members, the initiative gives them a chance to position themselves as a ‘design-led’ business”.

In order to mark their 25th anniversary, the DBA have been working alongside B&W Studio who have created a celebratory campaign depicting party poppers exploding in slow motion to the soundtrack of a guitar playing backwards. As told to Design Week the creative partner at B&W Studio, Steven Wills, says “The DBA always listen to our ideas – however unusual or unexpected”.

Although client membership does inevitably raise issues such as free-pitching, the advantages of this notion seem to outweigh the possible downfalls; with the opportunity for members to communicate and network directly with other business connected with design.

As outlined by the Design Business Association, “in the last 25 years we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long, long way to go and this is only the beginning”.