To raise fees we should recognise strategic input

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I agree that the design business is well positioned to give high value strategic help to companies (Comment, DW 31 July). But, to do this we need to shed the focus on fulfilment issues like creativity and focus more on the problem-solving roots of design.

The big fees come from knowing what is needed by others, without needing much of a brief. So none of the design businesses selling purely on creativity and complaining about poor briefs stands much of a chance.

Good ad agencies don’t sell ads, they sell changes to customer perceptions. Management consultancies sell corporate improvement of many kinds. The advice element is so strong they survive despite very weak fulfilment mechanisms like reports.

Some design businesses can deliver both of these consultancy benefits, with very powerful fulfilment. But, in reality, many are only selling the fulfilment part.

The designers who understand true consultancy already sit pretty near the high table. Most, it’s no coincidence, work in the fields of corporate identity and brand development.

To help achieve higher fees and more strategic influence, the industry needs to recognise and promote a clearer differentiation between design consultants, and design contractors. Longer term, it should work on education and accreditation to reduce the difference between the two. The starting point is to recognise a difference.

The industry can also help itself by working harder to understand the needs of its clients. One of the great ironies at the moment is that many client businesses know what they want from designers, but they are not offered it. Why don’t the Chartered Society of Designers and the Design Business Association do some client market research?

Gus Desbarats

Managing and creative director

Random Product Design

Hampshire GU12 4XQ

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