Build on Top 100 success to boost effectiveness

Our Top 100 looks set to cause quite a stir this year, given the number of changes in the line up. More than a third of the groups listed in the 2002 charts are making their Top 100 debut and many of them are based in the regions.

The result arguably paints a truer picture of the industry as a whole than in previous years, when high-profile London consultancies have dominated. And though the 2002 Top 100 only covers income to December 2001, it lays a foundation for the industry’s future.

Global supergroups still dominate the top end of the charts, with WPP Group’s branding flagship Enterprise IG holding on to pole position with increased fees reflecting the absorption of Tutssels and the retail side of BDG McColl. But the advent of the likes of product group Kinneir Dufort and graphics specialist Proctor & Stevenson, both from Bristol, Cambridge consultancy Flag Communications and Manchester-based The Chase shows you don’t have to be part of a global network or have a London headquarters to make a mark.

In assessing the results, Amanda Merron of accountant Willott Kingston Smith says there appear to be two ways to make money in design – by being big or by remaining small and niche.

She also says that while the fortunes of design took a significant dip last year, and are likely to continue to do so in the immediate future, the industry is in better shape. The blood-letting of recent months by many a group has reduced previously excessive overheads to a much more realistic level and fees for any work won now are likely to lead to profit rather than just sustaining the business.

Groups in the charts would do well to milk the marketing opportunities afforded by their presence. We know, for example, that clients often use the Top 100 listings to compile pitch lists and that they provide a source of data on design for Government agencies and the media, among others. Their validity is even greater this year, given that the findings are for the first time based on audited figures.

But the best way to convince clients and others of the true value of design is to demonstrate how it can improve their business performance and make life better for people in general. There are ways of doing this, as the DBA International Design Effectiveness Awards have shown successfully over years. The Design Council meanwhile is developing tools to help businesses measure design effectiveness in all its manifestations.

As an industry we need to build on these and create other measurement methods. This can only benefit design and help swell the collective fee-income of groups in next year’s Top 100 charts.

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