A balancing act that keeps the design industry healthy

It’s interesting that Charles Trevail so far stands alone in his defence of the global network (Letters, DW 3 April). A host of independents have spoken out against his stance in letters over the past couple of weeks, often angrily, putting the view that

It’s interesting that Charles Trevail so far stands alone in his defence of the global network (Letters, DW 3 April).

A host of independents have spoken out against his stance in letters over the past couple of weeks, often angrily, putting the view that small is not only beautiful, but the best way to serve client needs. Clients reiterated that view when we asked them (Vox Pop, DW 27 March).

But none of Trevail’s peers in the big conglomerates have rallied in his support, putting the case for global reach and integrated working. Perhaps they believe that silence is the best defence, when, in fact, we are all keen to hear their opinions as leaders, financially at least, of the UK design business. More likely they are busy taking care of business across the world at a time when many countries are undergoing hardship.

Sadly, we are unlikely to hear much directly from the bigger groups when we publish our Top 100 listings next month as the strict conditions on financial reporting laid down last summer for companies listed in the US by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has prevented many of them from taking part in this year’s trawl.

As several of our correspondents have said, there is scope for consultancies of all sizes and configurations. Different clients and projects have different requirements. It is the happy mix of both, tempered with a strong in-house design element, that makes for a healthy creative community. Nor is it only those businesses with offices across the globe that are suffering from current world events. Independents too have clients in the Middle East or Asia.

What many have missed out of the equation though is the superstar designer – the high profile individual like the legendary Peter Saville (see Profile, page 20), who may appeal largely to a niche market like the music and fashion industries, but whose ground-breaking work can influence trends in design and inspire generations of designers. They have a key role to play too.

And it isn’t just on the conference platform that the likes of Saville, Stefan Sagmeister and UK graphics great Alan Fletcher star. All of them run businesses, albeit a studio rather than a ‘corporate’ concern, and manage clients.

Indeed, some wield great influence in the client world. Take French design giant Philippe Starck who in his various creative director roles has redefined the style of hotels, say, and home electronics. His work with Eurostar promises to do the same for transport when his train interiors are unveiled later this month.

So size isn’t really the issue. It’s about finding the right balance to meet individuals’ needs and satisfy those of the client.

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