Outsider brings fresh tactics to DBA’s cause

In a week that sees a wildcard win Wimbledon comes news that another relative “outsider” is poised to take the helm at the Design Business Association. When Paul Priestman succeeds Lynne Dobney to the DBA chairmanship in October, he will have served little more than a year on the association’s board. His consultancy, Priestman Goode, has been a DBA member for not much longer.

How important it is that the system – at the DBA as well as Wimbledon – allows the right person to win through. In the case of Priestman, it has enabled the DBA to tap into a generation of designer/ owners who haven’t yet played a big role in industry politics, though their creative standing is high.

Priestman has pledged to raise design’s profile through a number of initiatives, including an annual book promoting DBA members and the association’s Effectiveness Awards winners. We can expect some success here, given his knack of putting his own consultancy on the media map in a way that shows sound marketing sense and strong design talent.

But Priestman has also pledged to continue the work of Dobney and others in building best practice within the design business and it is on the client side of this that he is likely to find his greatest challenge – though he is hoping to bring clients and in-house teams on board as DBA members. Bigger groups have worked their way into global boardrooms, but the mass of design groups are still ranked way behind other marketing services agencies by clients and consequently not treated very well.

The DBA has made some inroads here. For example, it made a brief foray into the Central Office of Information Communications debacle over the Government department’s decision to charge design groups a fee to pitch for a place on its roster. That situation remains unresolved as the COI continues to draw flak from the industry over its procurement practices (DW 5 July), but the DBA is seemingly having more impact in its fight against restrictive contracts .

There are, however, other areas still to be tackled. Free creative pitching is an old ill that hasn’t gone away, despite strong arguments against it, but there are other scenarios where clients expect too much from design groups without appointing them to a job. Companies such as Jaguar, for example, have put as many as seven groups on a pitch list, wasting time and resources all round.

There is still much to be done by Dobney, Priestman and other DBA board members to build design’s confidence and stature within a wider world. We’d welcome your views on how best they might achieve it.

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