Shifting methods will affect results of Top 100 survey

It’s amazing how many requests we’ve already had for the Top 100 form, which is published this week. Let’s hope the folks so keen to receive it actually fill it in, to give us the best possible picture of the design business.

The form has gone out later than in previous years, though it covers the 12 months to last December, and the special supplement planned to give the results is not due out until June. The reason for this is that this year we are insisting on audited figures from contributors, rather than just taking the word of consultancy bosses about financial performance, to give it more validity.

Given that the survey results are a key source of data on design for clients, politicians, the media and others, the results must be as accurate and credible as possible. We appreciate your prompt response in helping us with that.

Inevitably, changing methods will have an impact on the survey results, as those groups that fail to provide official verification will not be ranked in the tables. But we expect the picture of design to be very different anyway, given the number of consultancy mergers, restructures and closures we’ve seen over recent months.

One thing that probably won’t show through this time is the extent to which design consultancy is shifting away from pure design to take in broader disciplines, and it’s not just about ‘strategic thinking’ that everyone claims as a strength.

Take communication design, for example, which, as Jim Davies points out, is as likely to be concerned with the tone of voice a company adopts to put its message across as with visual design. Like naming and copywriting, it involves skills not traditionally found within design consultancies, though prevalent in advertising. But it could become integral to design and this is likely be reflected in a consultancy’s turnover, though not directly in the design fees on which we currently base our listings.

Then there are the collaborative projects we hear so much about these day. These are deemed to be a way forward, by global conglomerates, where cross-disciplinary stablemates share business, and by the more confident independents working with complementary groups. But which partner will benefit most from the income derived when it comes to divvying up the spoils?

According to press reports, the latest figures from management consultancy David Jebb & Associates suggest that design groups will see ‘financial improvement’ in the first quarter of 2002. If so, it will be interesting to see how much of this will come through core business activities and how much through finding innovative new ways to service clients.

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