In recent years, the value of Québec's furniture industry shipments has outpaced BC's, thanks in some measure to an innovative tax credit program introduced by the Québec government in 1995. Designers such as André Laurent and Martin de Blois, the furniture manufacturers they design for, and the Québec economy are all benefiting from the program. Named VISA Design, this iniative offers a generous tax credit to small and medium-sized manufacturers employing qualified industrial (furniture) designers to develop new products.
Louis Brassard, VISA Design administrator with the Québec Ministère de l'industrie et du Commerce, said that 52 companies have taken advantage of the program since 1995. He believes the program is a qualified success, pointing out that more work is needed to overcome manufacturers' resistance to change and the temptation to "copy" rather than innovate.
Industrial design as defined by the Québec government". . . means a planning and designing process based on economic, ergonomic and aesthetic analysis of structures, the aim of which is to determine the formal qualities of products to be manufactured industrially. However, industrial design does not include interior layout, interior design, graphic design or engineering."
To take advantage of the program, designers must meet a number of criteria including having a recognized qualification from an industrial (furniture) design school and membership in the Association des designers industriels du Québec (ADIQ).
In 1995, Laurent designed a range of economical RTA home office furniture for Bestar Inc. whose sales increased from $35 million to $70 million in four years, due in part to new products developed under the tax credit program. Laurent is currently working with Roy & Bénot, based in Montmagny, Québec, on an innovative line of metal and panel home office units.
Martin de Blois has been working since 1989 for Baronet, the highly successful manufacturer in Beauce, Québec, designing furniture for their Valencia, Sri Lanka and Key Biscayne collections. Baronet has just released the Soho collection, designed by de Blois, which features clean, contemporary lines and anodized aluminum hardware.
The success of Quebec's VISA Design program is an example of how government can effectively support design in the furniture manufacturing sector. A similar commitment by BC's government would be one way to address the disparity of sales between these two provinces which, after all, have the same small and medium-sized industrial structure.
© furniturelink 1999 (text and images)