New consultancy moves make for a promising start to the design year

It has been a cracking start to the year for the consultancy world with a couple of new ventures set to boost its strength in the UK, while putting a different slant on how things are done.

Last week we reported on Callum Lumsden’s decision to quit Small Back Room to set up retail design group Lumsden (DW 6 January).

Lumsden hit the ground running with a seasoned player as its founder and a small, but experienced team. A culture of collaboration and the profile Lumsden has generated through his involvement with the Mary Portas TV series Mary Queen of Shops give it a head start.

Elmwood and AKQA have shown you can create a successful global network while remaining independent

The same can be said of Prophet, the US marketing and design group that is mounting a European campaign with Rune Gustafson at its helm (see News, page 3). Though not strictly a new venture, it was already building its design capabilities in the US with the appointment last autumn of New York-based British designer Helen Keyes as associate partner. But with Gustafson planning expansion in Europe as chairman of Emea, Prophet is poised to take on some of the bigger global groups, but without the pressures implicit in being part of a marketing services conglomerate.

Prophet’s is a familiar story for those who’ve been in design for some time. Take the saga of Future Brand, deemed to have overstretched itself through rapid European expansion and an aggressive acquisition strategy in the 1990s before it was bought by Interpublic Group.

The difference is that Prophet comes from a marketing base and is broadening its offer through design and innovation rather than the other way round. It is owned by its partners – and appears to want to remain that way.

Elmwood and interaction group AKQA are among those that have shown you can create a successful global network while remaining independent. Given its innovative approach and Gustafson’s track record, Prophet could be up there with them before long.

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