The Design Community Hub is a support network for designers affected by the pandemic

After witnessing the damage caused to the design industry by the pandemic, Jonathan Sands, Tim Greenhalgh, and other members of the Design Business Association were moved to found the Design Community Hub, a free online platform for those in need.

6 July 2021

A New Angle is an editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere.

This week we speak with Jonathan Sands OBE, non-executive director of Elmwood and chairman of Born Ugly, and Tim Greenhalgh, CCO at Landor & Fitch, about their initiative the Design Community Hub. Launched in March, the newly-formed organisation aims to advise, inspire, and help designers who are struggling to find a job in the current climate. Following a Design Business Association event in late 2020, several members of the DBA realised the need to support “the people who are the future of the industry”. The Design Community Hub answered the call with jobs, portfolio surgeries, and mentoring, bringing together designers and industry leaders to give a helping hand to those who need it most. Below, we chat to Jonathan and Tim about the significant challenges that have been brought about by the pandemic and what we can do to meet them head on.

It’s Nice That: What about the creative industry are you hoping to change and why does it need changing?

Jonathan Sands: I don’t think we are trying to change anything but we are trying to fill a gap. And specifically a gap in the design sector. There are many design support organisations from the Design Council which are there to promote design best practice and a focus on SME’s – The DBA, which is the trade body for design, The Creative Industries Federation, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the entire creative sector, etc. But we live in a dynamic environment where our world has been seismically affected over the last year by the global pandemic. And the casualties from this fallout need support.

The Design Community Hub has therefore been created (albeit in its infancy) to try and step in and fill a void which is not directly supported by existing bodies or infrastructure. A void that has left many designers displaced from roles that they had made commitments against and pinned high hopes on, and for a raft of students who have now completed their university studies, proudly holding their scrolls, but have emerged triumphant with no roles to go to.

As such, a number of us who have been lucky enough to enjoy long and rewarding careers in the design sector have got together to create the Design Community Hub, a portal to keep engaged those currently displaced, to stay close to the industry, with support from the industry. To support by way of mentorship and the opportunity to be involved in industry events and in so doing keeping [them] close so that they are in a prime position to seize opportunities as they arise, when better times return.

INT: What have you built and how does it tackle the industry issues?

Tim Greenhalgh: We are still building it… but we want to create a place where the design industry comes together to collaborate, work, and share expertise with graduates. So in that respect it is a hub that facilitates connections and a wider positive conversation.

From the outset we were clear that we needed to do something to help those who are at home with their parents, struggling to find ways of connecting with the industry. Now that they are qualified, they are keen to join. Equally we were concerned that the pandemic and the following dislocation could result in individuals considering retraining in other areas or flatly rejecting a career in the creative industry. So, whilst not an obvious issue now, we did wonder that, if we did nothing, whether we could find ourselves asking in five years time “where did all the designers go?”

INT:What other organisations are there out there like yours and what sets yours apart?

JS: There are many organisations supporting the design profession but none are there to provide direct intervention post-pandemic to support individuals within the industry. However inspiration can be found in other sectors, with perhaps NABS in the advertising sector being the best example. NABS is a charity set up to help “improve the wellbeing of everyone in the industry”. We share the exact same mission for design and going forward, assuming that what we have started can gather momentum, we too would like to see the Design Community Hub incorporated as a charity. One where all services are offered free to members to help with things from financial support to career advice for the betterment and wellbeing of our industry.

INT:What are the major challenges you are facing?

TG: We are a close-knit community at heart but at a time like this we are somewhat dislocated both literally and metaphorically. I know, in my heart, that we are a generous industry, populated with imaginative people. The hard part is corralling this and reacting quickly to a meaningful and urgent cause. That said, I think it is starting to work and I am confident that, as we have said, we will come together to help the next generation of designers.

INT: What can the creative industry do to support your mission?

JS: I think the ask is pretty simple: we need our industry to show its true self, its best self. The name “The Design Community Hub”, with an emphasis on “unity” within “Design Community,” says it all and is deliberate in our choice of name and brand icon. To be our best self we need our community to help itself. We cannot be an industry expecting or hoping to rely on support from outside. We need to use our own talents to help design a better future for our industry, our community, and indeed our country.

Design is the engine of change and renewal and so we need to practice what we preach, put our hands in our pockets to help fund and drive the momentum for this initiative, and then we need to be our philanthropic best in opening our doors to those less fortunate.

We need to engage and keep connected those temporarily displaced by welcoming in the next generation to our own events – be they social or inspirational learning and development occasions. Where possible we need our community to give their time to mentor on all aspects of professional development, from advice on presentation skills to technical and craft skills, to help keep hold of this population that is so vital to our future wellbeing and prosperity.

In short we need our community to give their time and their money in belief of the truism that what goes around comes around. Indeed, many have, including the likes of Pearlfisher and the Typographic Circle, who have each donated £1,000, as well as individuals who have dipped into their pockets, such as Phil and Clare Jones who run Podge Events, and Jeremy Lindley (Diageo) who donated personally from the client community. We are off to a great start but we need everyone who can to do their bit. This needs to be seen as an investment that will repay and with dividends.

TG: Simple – get involved. Let’s truly come together. Put your hand in your pocket to support this initiative with a donation.

You can donate to The Design Community Hub by visiting its website.

Share Article

About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.