RDI Summer School – Day One

First encounters at the RDI Summer School

First encounters at the RDI Summer School

What is remarkable about the RDI Summer School is how so many people applied on the basis on personal recommendation, and yet how little any of the attendees know about what they are going to happen or who they are going to meet. There is a shroud of secrecy around the event that none of the previous attendees want to unveil – as clear an indicator as possible that this event is about the journey and not the destination. The journey began at 7:30am where a mixture of RDIs, young designers and ‘wild cards’ boarded the magical mystery coach. The RDIs are senior designers who have been awarded the title of Royal Designers for Industry in honour of achieving sustained design excellence, aesthetic value, and significant benefit to society. The RDIs are here to inspire, guide and inform the young designers, the largest constituency here – tactfully named to suggest people less advanced in career and age than the RDIs. The wildcards are professionals who are not designers and generally do not work with designers per se but may be touched by design, either as civil servants, commissioners, etc. They too can inspire and guide the young designers, but for this latter group it is also a chance to learn about how to build better collaborations with designers.

As the charabanc advanced westwards, curious conversation began to unfold between clusters on the bus. People began to discover who their co-travellers are. Somewhere outside Bristol the bus disgorged its contents into a service station. All of a sudden some the UK’s leading designers – architects, potters, stage designers, engineers – were all in the queue at the tiny coffee stand. It was like some 21st century recreation of the 19th century coffee shop encounters of Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt, James Bolton and Erasmus Darwin. By mid-afternnon we arrived in the glorious ground of Dartington Hall. We disembarked, ate and went straight into our first activity. Blackberries, iPhones and laptops were thrown aside, space was created, contact was made, and connections began to form.

My job on board this journey is to tell a story that it seems must remain secret. From four hours of moving from seat to seat on the coach, I am getting a clearer idea who the characters are and what their backstory is. This is a gang of people who all do useful stuff, and to do that well, they seek in one form or another, a creative recharge. I look forward to witnessing that.

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