BEDA’s vision is for design to be embraced in Europe as a driver of sustainable growth and prosperity. BEDA boasts 54 members from 28 countries of Europe. Members can be design promotion centres and other publicly funded organisations that promote design nationally or regionally as well as professional and trade associations for designers from across Europe. Those professional associations represent designers, based in Europe, in every discipline of work from industrial design and interiors to digital design and branding.
BEDA is a not-for-profit organisation funded in its entirity by its members. It is run by a board of directors elected by its membership every two years. It also elects a President and Vice President every two years. BEDA is headquartered in Brussels
The history of BEDA
BEDA was founded in 1969 when there was little knowledge and poor awareness of the impact that designers could have in business. BEDA brought together the professional design associations from across Europe, typically providing signposting to information about the design industry, which was very young at that time. It also helped to promote the case for design in business.
The President represents BEDA, promoting the value and potential of design to the European Commission, industry and the design sector itself. The President co-ordinates and oversees the delivery of the strategy which is developed by BEDA’s members and board. The President is also responsible for chairing all meetings of the Board and the General Assembly.
BEDA boasts an illustrious alumni of past Presidents:
- Päivi Tahkokallio (2019-2021)
- Bart Ahsmann (2017-2019)
- Robin Edman (2015-2017)
- Isabel Roig (2013 – 2015)
- Deborah Dawton (2011 – 2013)
- Jan R. Stavik (2009 – 2011)
- Michael Thomson (2007 – 2009)
- Massimo Pitis (2005 – 2007)
- Stephen Hitchins (2003 – 2005)
- Francisco Carrera (2001 – 2003)
- Severin Filek (1999 – 2001)
- Peter Lord (1997 – 1999)
- Marja Van Weeren (1994 – 1997)
- Margarida Oliveira (1993 – 1994)
- Michael Hardt (1991 – 1993)
- Alan Pleass (1990 – 1991)
- Joop Ridder (1989 – 1990)
- Giancarlo Iliprandi (1988)
How has the membership of BEDA changed over the years?
Initially, membership was open to design industry associations only, although from all categories of designers, as well as educational institutions. Geographically there was a focus on the EU. In time, membership was extended to design centers and countries outside the EU but within the “geographical limits of Europe.” As a consequence of this, the association changed its name from Bureau of European Designers’ Association to Bureau of European Design Associations, seemingly a small change but in context, a major one. The promotional organisations with their unique background, competencies and political expertise at national and regional levels, quickly started to address political agendas. This proved to be relevant and important not only to the design profession, but to the overall understanding of the potential for design as a tool for change.
How has BEDA's strategy changed over the years?
As things improved in general for the design profession, BEDA started to look at how the it could influence the political agenda. It wanted to create increased awareness of the importance of design as a business tool. It wanted politicians to understand that design can be an enabler for change and improve competitiveness for European industry. It wanted an improved life for European citizens.
Has BEDA been successful? Yes. As a result of years of successful lobbying in Brussles, today, design is part of the innovation policy for Europe called Innovation Union 2020.
BEDA continues to be deeply involved in the shaping of policy for Europe. We will also promote design as a tool for industrial and societal innovation, something much needed today and in the future.
Mission and Vision
The potential to meet great needs
These are exciting times for design. Leading global companies have a new appetite for design, while governments are coming to see that design can play a major role in solving the toughest social and environmental problems. More and more over the last fifteen to twenty years, design has been applied in a wider and wider range of contexts, from services to understanding user and citizen needs to defining strategy and policy at the highest levels in both business and government. At the same time, in more established areas such as product and graphic design, design continues to be a vital differentiator and generator of value.
At a time of daunting challenges for Europe, there is, therefore, enormous potential for design to play a fundamental role in delivering solutions. Given the right conditions, it could help to grow Europe’s global competitiveness and make the connections between citizen and environmental needs and fiscal responsibility. The right conditions, of course, begin with understanding. In contexts where design is given its head, it proves its capability again and again. However, to those unfamiliar with it, its approaches are often counter-intuitive and its value unknown. Our members are, of course, well aware of this and do impressive work in their own countries to demonstrate design’s benefits. However, they also know that, as much as they can achieve on their own, they can do exponentially more as part of a network.
This is, in short, a movement. By working together, we can share knowledge and skills and cumulatively gather and disseminate evidence. Working across Europe’s increasingly fluid national boarders, we can collaborate on mutually beneficial projects, engage more effectively and help to build capacity. In particular, we can work together to spread understanding of design to areas where they are currently under-used – and to the European Union’s highest governance levels.
This last is, of course, crucial. From this will flow the vital support needed to nurture and expand the network. This is where we at BEDA come in.
Our vision is for design to be embraced in Europe as a driver for growth and prosperity.
Making the case for design and expanding the network
Since we were established in 1969, we have worked ceaselessly to champion design and bring together design organisations from across Europe. We have evolved with design itself as it has come to be seen as a discipline that can bring about far-reaching transformation in business, society, national economies and quality of life.
In promoting this potential in the EU, we have made great gains. Over the past eight years, we have met with officials at the very highest level, including then European Commission President Barroso and then Vice President Günter Verheugen, also then European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry. Making our case for design we have tirelessly lobbied the Commission, resulting in it launching, in 2011, the European Design Innovation Initiative, with BEDA’s president and vice president on the Leadership Board, and, in 2013, the Action Plan for Design Driven Innovation. From 2012 to 2014 our efforts have been rewarded with the launch of a number of European Design Innovation Initiatives including the Design for Europe project.
With the co-funding of the Creative Europe Programme, BEDA has launched its Design Europe 2021 project aiming to strengthening and growing our network as the European Design Authority. BEDA was one of the first partners of the New European Bauhaus in 2021 and is eagerly supporting the initiative to strive for a beautiful, sustainable and inclusive Europe.
All of this represents hugely significant advance. As a result of our work, design is now firmly on the agenda at the most senior levels in Brussels. That means significant concrete support that will greatly increase design’s reach and influence across Europe. It is a major series of achievements and should inspire great pride in us all, as well as immense optimism. Most of all, however, it should galvanise us. While design is now well recognised within the Commission’s Enterprise Directorate, there are numerous other areas where it could make a vital difference. We have made an impressive start that should give us a solid foundation from which to build.
A comprehensive plan for a complex and wide-ranging agenda
BEDA is now looking to the future with a new strategy to strengthen the perception of design across Europe, strengthening our network, increasing our standing as the design authority at European level and ensuring design has a recognised position in the European Innovation System. This is a campaign not just on multiple fronts, but with a complex variety of needs. It requires that we enhance awareness of design’s value, while simultaneously strengthening design sector capacity to meet both the demand that we create and the future’s challenges. It means radically altering perceptions to help businesses and governments understand how design can fuel the innovative capability by which they stand or fall.
The ambition, in other words, could not be higher. What follows is an overview of the plan we have developed, explaining both the thinking behind it and what we intend to do.
1. Enhance the awareness and understanding of the value of design.
Among certain audiences, design is still narrowly understood in terms of aesthetics and styling. This misses its great capacity to integrate functional, emotional and social aspects in response to user needs and add value at every stage of product and service development. Research shows that the earlier it is part of the process the better the results.
We will work with our national authorities to showcase tangible examples of how design delivers value to the European economy. We will also campaign for Design to be an integral part of European research programmes.
2. Strengthen the design sector’s capability to meet future needs.
There are over 400,000 professionally-trained designers in Europe, generating annual turnover of €36 billion (European Commission, 2013). However, the dynamics of business in Europe are changing. BEDA seeks to identify future trends and upskill designers appropriately in order to increase the European design sector’s gross value added.
We will advocate to the Commission’s education programme to recognise design as a driver for growth and properly include design in future generations’ education.
3. Build appreciation and use of design among EU businesses and intermediaries (Innovation Centres, Chambers of Commerce…).
Research has demonstrated that companies that use design strategically generate a greater return on investment than companies that use it not at all or only as an add-on. However, companies and public-sector bodies struggle to understand and commission design.
We will inspire the public sector to use design and work with national administrations and intermediaries to share design commissioning best practice.
4. Advocate design for public sector renewal.
Design methodology allows citizens to become active creators of the public services they use and their interactions with public institutions. This is because designers work with end users to understand their needs, then test solutions with them through prototyping. This hugely mitigates risk: design iterations fail early and cheaply, providing the necessary information to make them effective incrementally. As such, design can be a highly effective method of improving quality of life as well as a driver for cost reduction.
We will help institutions become more effective with a strong user focus and build design sector capacity to deliver it.
5. Promote design as a new approach to policy-making (and implementation).
The same principles that make design effective for public services also apply at policy level: ie the capacity to involve diverse stakeholders to establish needs and mitigation of risk.
We will now pursue a much broader policy agenda, including input on research, environment, health and social policy at multiple governance levels across Europe.
There are a series of short and longer term actions against each of these five areas and the detail of these can be found in the BEDA Strategic Policy Plan to 2021.
We’ve pulled these various actions together into four streams, as follows:
– Building Capacity through BEDA GA+. Run in conjunction with the General Assembly this will be a full-day programme of peer-to-peer learning aimed at empowering us all to become a more effective ‘network engine’.
– Connecting you to opportunities for growth through BEDA CONNECTS. An annual opportunity to meet, expand your reach and connect with new projects, partnerships, collaborations, programmes and funding.
– Setting up and running Design Expertise Groups through BEDA CLUSTERS. An opportunity to upgrade skills and competencies and collect and communicate the vital information that will help in building a better society as we grow the design sector.
– Continue to influence Policy through BEDA INTEGRATES. An Insight Forum to inspire, communicate and discuss with leaders of the Commission, business and the public sector and, ultimately, a ‘Design Davos’ series – high-level summits aimed at embedding design at the highest levels within the Commission.
Constitution and Bylaws
BEDA’s Constitution and Bylaws govern the way in which it is run. BEDA’s Secretary is the guardian of the Constitution and Bylaws and ensures that the correct procedures are observed at all times. They are regularly reviewed and updated.
The Constitution is published on the Moniteur Belge’s website and can be downloaded here.
The Treasurer is responsible for drafting the annual budget, proposing the annual membership fees, proposing other levies and monitoring the day-to-day financial operations of the association. The Secretary is the guardian of BEDA’s Constitution and Bylaws and ensures that the correct procedures are observed at all times.
BEDA board members are elected by and from the BEDA membership. They serve a two-year term and can stand for re-election for an additional two consecutive terms. Voting takes place at BEDA’s annual General Assembly. General Assemblies are hosted by a member organisation each year.
Should a vacancy arise for whatever reason, the Board can co-opt another member to fill the gap but they must stand for election at the next meeting of the General Assembly at which Board elections are conducted.
In addition to the General Assembly each year, the Board meet a further three times to conduct the business of BEDA. Board meetings are usually hosted by members to coincide with design-related events taking place in the host country.