Value your work in this competitive global economy

A debate at the Design Council last week revisited the idea of new business models for design. The event, called Value your Work, sought to bring together consultancies that have succeeded in doing things differently, largely, on the face of it, by adding new revenue streams to their business.

There is nothing wrong in that, but the focus was on the copyright angle – hardly surprising as the session was organised by intellectual property advice service Own It – rather than genuinely new ways to run a creative business.

Reports suggest the debate centred on the way designers earn fees, while other creatives – photographers, inventors and the like – often capitalise on the ownership of the work through royalty payments.

There is nothing new about these thoughts. A few groups, mainly product designers, cottoned on to the idea of shared risks and royalties a long time ago. They have also tackled the question of shared authorship, where the client’s technical team has a hand in the design.

But there is an urgency to the issue now for product designers, given the ascendancy of the Far East and other regions where manufacturing is cheap and design skills could soon challenge the West. The thrust of the argument at the Own It event was that intellectual property will soon be all European designers have to arm them against the challenge of countries such as South Korea and Japan.

However well-trodden the arguments at last week’s debate, designers from non-product disciplines would love the ability to claim even a tiny slice of the action. One or two have, cleverly licensing clients to use their work in certain applications and adding income when it is used in a different guise. But few have managed a major shift in their relationships with clients.

Now, though, the communications design camp can take heart from the deal between Nucleus and intellectual property specialist attorney Hallmark IP. This is a genuine new business model – driven as much by client needs as by consultancy greed – and well worth a second glance.

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