Design, like every other industry sector, is in a period of great change. Established names in digital design – notably Deepend – are suddenly off the map and other, more traditional design groups are suffering, not least through the sudden downturn in airline activity and with it, an anticipated decline in international tourism.
But there is still a degree of optimism in the design industry, with newish businesses such as Made Thought and The Nest, both profiled in this issue, picking up the baton. There is always room for smallish, creatively led teams, whatever the economic climate, ideally to work alongside bigger, more strategically driven consultancies, as long as they heed the lessons learned from forerunners such as Deepend and do not overstretch their offer.
An interesting aspect of The Nest’s set-up is its recent merger with Ian Logan’s long-standing business (DW 20 September). I suspect we will see more such deals as the old guard look to revitalise their consultancies, while enabling themselves to take more of a back seat, and newer groups seek to boost their credibility and client base. On the face of it, it is a healthy development, that sees a blending of experience with a fresh approach.
Changes are afoot too on the client-side of design, with top design management jobs vacancies at Transport for London and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Both posts could be highly influential in building the profile of those organisations – look at the impact Jeremy Rewse-Davies, the last design head at London Transport to be a director, and Science Museum design head Tim Molloy have made in their time. The concern is that the jobs now on offer do not have comparable seniority, reflected not least in the salaries they offer. We urge both organisations to think hard before making an appointment. Money spent now – and a revised brief – may result in a candidate with greater experience, better quality work and possibly even savings over time.
Then there is the Chartered Society of Designers’ directorship. We understand the CSD has made an appointment, but will not name the successful candidate outside the small confines of its membership. We hope that once in place, the new director will break this conspiracy of silence and parochialism to put the CSD back in the centre of the design business and become an ambassador for design in the wider world.
These objectives should be high on the CSD’s agenda. If they are, we in the industry owe the new director our support in aiming to achieve them. Otherwise, the society will remain a spent force, membership to which has little meaning. None of us can afford that.