Times are tough – all the more reason for designers to stand up and be counted

I admire the forthrightness of Franco Bonadio. Never one to mince his words, the Identica chief executive is not afraid to say that at any time his consultancy is only six weeks away from bankruptcy, a reality faced by many design bosses that’s rarely aired in public.

It is not that Identica, a well-regarded creative force with sound business credentials, is in trouble – unlike many of its ilk, it has the ’cushion’ of a backer in Cossette UK, which describes itself as a ’multi-disciplined community’ of creative services groups. However, as Bonadio said in a Designer Breakfasts talk to peers last month, design remains a fragile business while clients see consultancies as project-based suppliers. Not for our industry the certainty of the annual retainers enjoyed by their counterparts in adland.

As an industry, we need to step up our efforts to change that and gain greater respectability in the eyes of the bigger clients, a mission we’ve been on for years, but one that looks more achievable now with advertising finding itself in an altered space.

Bonadio’s honesty is refreshing. Would that more were, like him, prepared to share the downs, as well as the ups, in public.

Over the past few months, I have met only one designer who has not been touched by recession and, though a ’name’ of some standing, he is virtually a one-man-band with clients of 20-years’ standing. There is nothing to be ashamed of if your fortunes aren’t what they were.

Yet several key players have so far avoided entering Design Week’s 2010 Top 100 Consultancy Survey, presumably thinking they’re the only ones experiencing a downturn. Without their input, the charts will be less representative of the industry than before, and they will miss a great chance to promote themselves to clients and the media.

It is not too late. We are prepared to stretch the deadlines to get everyone in. Meanwhile, our thanks go to the brave groups among you who have already entered.

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