Things move fast in digital design. It’s not that long since “new media” was the descriptor applied to a small group of geeky types who seemed to have a grasp of Internet technologies and the will to move them on. But the sector gained credibility in design terms as the likes of graphics stars such as Malcolm Garrett and Neville Brody headed in that direction, to be followed by, among others, design-led group Nucleus, which jumped ship from packaging to put Web design central to its branding offer, and Deepend, set up by three product design graduates.
Now the sector is as rife with mergers and acquisitions as the more traditional businesses that have regrouped to form global networks, such as Enterprise IG and FutureBrand. Everyone wants digital capabilities and the opportunity for talented specialists to sell is great.
Sharper operators have twigged it’s not just website design that’s fuelling expansion. The downturn of dotcoms may not have altered the fact that third or fourth generation websites need to be cleverer than their forerunners. But the challenges are bigger than that now. Convergence – a word applied for so long without substance – is hitting us for real, particularly with the coming together of TV and the Web as complementary platforms.
Hence we have a deal between digital design specialist Intro and factual programme maker Uden Associates, announced last week, and impending “close relationships” between AMXstudios, ad agency EuroRSCG Wnek Gosper and management consultancy Andersen Consulting – all three owned by French conglomerate Havas.
Broadband is a key factor prompting these deals, allowing richer content, and, as platforms merge, bringing digital communication more closely into people’s homes. The need for good design will be greater than ever. It’s not just a case of getting the branding right, as in many business-to-business communications, but of making the system easier and quicker to use, with content up to the expectations of the increasingly sophisticated consumer.
The skills to achieve this can rarely be found in one place – technophiles, designers and advertising/ branding folk all have a key role to play. It’s not just the client that is calling the shots in this instance, the method of delivery of a message or data is changing radically. Which is why we look to deals such as that anticipated from the Havas trio to lead the way.
We can expect to hear of more such link-ups between advertising, business strategy and design. What we might also look for is evidence that designers are leading these new teams, as people who can meet consumers’ demands for more user-friendly interfaces.