The one-stop creative shop

If your group boasts a variety of disciplines there needs to be synergy between them to give clients an integrated solution, says Sara Wilkins

When creative companies decide to incorporate other creative skills into their offer, it can too easily be as a new division – but more often than not it is precisely that/ a division. Their differences result in unproductive hierarchies and competitiveness between the skill sets. It also leads to skill sector stages – build the building, then design the interiors and finally add on the graphics.

We’ve worked very hard over the past eight years to break down the barriers and build working relationships that actively and positively mix our varied skill sets; this is the root of our success. But it did not happen overnight.

In 1991 KSS was solely an architectural firm. Eight years ago, I joined with a small group of interior design colleagues from Harrods; then, six years ago, graphics were added to the mix.

The best results are delivered through project planning and management that is fully integrated from the outset. From the initial stages, when we start to consider the philosophy and concept of a new project, we ensure that a comprehensive team is present, including as many people as possible from every design sector. Nothing is an afterthought. Architectural requirements, interiors and the full graphic/branding treatment are combined from the start.

Over the years, we have worked hard to educate everyone on the full range of talents within the group. By involving the wider team in brainstorming, not only do you gain a greater variety of input, but you appreciate the full extent of the resources you can draw upon as the project progresses.

When all aspects of a project are brought together, it offers a greater opportunity not only to deliver all the elements, but to express whatever the client wants to say – regardless of whether the business is a commercial brand, a Government office, or an educational institute.

It’s also important to educate the client about how you work and the reasons behind it. If clients understand your approach, it helps them to encapsulate what they really want, and see how your solutions will deliver it – winning repeat business.

When we engage with a client, we don’t ask about size, storage or division of purpose, we ask about the user experience and journey. What messages are we supposed to be communicating?

Everyone in the group needs to be involved in the diverse industry sectors that we work across. Making the most of our team’s experience and ideas – and each individual’s background – is crucial. From stadium to furniture designers and ex-advertising creatives, we wish to ensure every client benefits from the full spectrum of expertise our group offers. We do not have a house style. Every solution is designed around a client’s unique aims and requirements. Knowledge- sharing is a powerful tool when properly exploited.

Regular internal project stage reviews, where we invite everyone to offer objective opinions, improves the results and they also motivate staff, breed creativity and ultimately improve the end result.

We continually invest in training and internal presentations at our London and Kent offices. If you have a strong philosophy, it is important to ensure people feel it is relevant to them and see how it enriches their role and experience.

It’s taken a while to educate everyone and work up to the point where the consultancy is now and we don’t take it for granted. By working constantly to maintain our integrated, internal approach and encouraging change and new initiatives, we have a prosperous working environment. This allows our clients to benefit from the impact the consultancy can make as a whole, rather than just providing a list of skills.

Sara Wilkins is director of KSS

MANAGING A MULTI-SKILLED DESIGN GROUP

• Don’t think in terms of arms, divisions and departments. Be determined to bring your consultancy together and educate each other on different skill sets and individual backgrounds
• Regular, internal education is key to cohesion, achieving best results and, crucially, external perceptions and satisfaction. Invest in the group as a whole; the results add value to your clients
• Be open to input at all times. Remember everyone in the consultancy has something to offer – and it might not be what or when you expect it
• The first step to delivering a successful project is to engage the client in fundamental questions about experience, message and journey. Think in wider terms first and let the practicalities follow
• Educate clients on the way you work and the reasons behind it: help them to ‘get it’

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