The professionals

Big consumer brands are no longer content with rosters, many are now hiring design’s top names to come up with strategies to nurture and protect their brands.

High-profile brands are now taking a sophisticated approach to design management and bringing in external advisors to help them get the most out of their in-house design teams or their roster agencies.

John McConnell of Pentagram started it when he was appointed by Boots the Chemists to oversee all of its design. And now Pentagram partner Justus Oehler is doing a similar job with the consultancy’s client Faber & Faber. ‘We have a long-term relationship with Faber & Faber and design all of its book covers, as well as exhibition stands and its website,’ he explains. ‘There are lots of people involved in book covers – the writer, the editor, the publisher and the sales team, but because we work with them on an ongoing basis we know them all really well and that makes things easier.’

More client companies are beginning to see the advantage of such a relationship, says Richard Watson, founder of the Global Innovation Network. ‘We have been approached by a growing number of clients looking for a design ‘guru’. It shows they are taking design more seriously and understand it can have a real impact on their businesses,’ he says.

However, Watson says that there just aren’t enough real ‘gurus’ around to satisfy the demand. ‘When you look beyond the likes of Rodney Fitch, Michael Peters and Richard Seymour, there simply aren’t enough people with the real gravitas, the creative instincts and the understanding of business that major corporations want.’

Here are some designers who have taken on an external advisory role, talking about the opportunities and challenges it presents.

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