Leicester Urban Observatory

Is there such a thing as Design Literacy?

Rob Harland from Loughborough Univesity has been banging on about this question with Leicester Urban Observeratory colleagues for almost five years since Neil, Loretta, Justin, Nic, Gavin, Simon and I started our journey with him on cross sector collaboration back then.

Something in the Farrell review about PLACE had sparked him off.

I thought not. I thought that the key to good design was more learnt through collaboration, experience and application of taught principles- with day to day translation of technical terminology rather than need for codification into a common language leading to possible enentitlement of Qualification in Design Literacy.

I am pleased to say after two thought provoking days at the summer school (hosted by Loughborough University, Mabers Architects and Leicester City Council) Rob pulled together this week, I have changed my view. Rob will post a full write up here on the site shortly but I loved the energetic conversations across academic, council and practitioner perspectives which seemed to coalesce into something. If not Design Literacy, then what?

From unrealised concepts of wave pools in Milton Keynes through to the invocations on the need to centre on people and health, the importance of graphic design in navigating and establishing a sense of place (in real places) and the role of art in our development of place- it was a heady mix.

I particularly enjoyed some bridging of architectural and planning perspectives which confirmed my long held views that both professions are aiming for similar outcomes. To me the event was a delight.

There is no Qualification in Design Literacy in the offing but more conversations like the ones held this week will surely improve a shared appreciation of what these words might mean in practice.

Thanks to all those who attended and contributed- we need to do more of this.

Grant Butterworth

Head of Planning

Leicester City Council

June 2019.