Leadership is key to fitter design businesses

There’s much talk of leadership in design. Last week Landor Associates’ European president Cheryl Giovannoni made the case for a more empathetic leadership style in the face of recession (Business Insight, DW 28 May). Meanwhile, participants in an industry debate at London’s Ivy restaurant last week reinforced the need for greater transparency. These thoughts are borne out by contributors to Voxpop this week (see page 11). Most maintain that industry leaders need to blend openness with resilience, and lead by example.

To develop these ideas and voice other management ploys to combat recession, we brought together a diverse group of design players to discuss the issues on a podcast prompted by the publication of the 2009 DW Top 100 Consultancy Survey. Accountant Amanda Merron of Kingston Smith W1 was joined in the debate by Ralph Ardill of The Brand Experience Consultancy, Mike Bennett from digital group E3 in Bristol and Gush Mundae, founder of London branding group Bulletproof, which bucked the trend and reported huge growth last year. Find out more at www.designweekpodcast.co.uk.

There is much food for thought in these sources for industry bosses. One important idea, outlined by Ardill this week (see Business Insight, page 18) is the notion of getting your consultancy into shape the way you might a client’s brand.

But while consultancy management is crucial, there is a broader leadership role for design. Increased concern by Government and business with social ills, sustainability and public sector services creates an opportunity for designers and consultancies to lead a process that demands a blend of creativity, communication, knowledge and empathy with people.

While these issues are yet to become the heartland of design, there is potential for them to develop as such. Fitter design businesses will arguably be better suited to meet the challenges they throw up, but let’s not be sidetracked from seizing the chance to lead in these areas. They are too important.

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