Reigniting the sparks

While we’re seeing the fallout of consultancies from the harsh economic climate, Glenn Tutssel is sure the UK design industry has the wherewithal to bounce back

OUR industry is currently going nowhere. It has lots of attitude, but little confidence to back it up. The once cottage industry that has become an established professional business is once again in a state of uncertainty and confusion.

Roughly every ten years a recession rips the heart out of our industry and panic reigns. The larger businesses cut their cloth and the smaller ones batten down the hatches. The fallout creates new companies to add more competition to a flooded market, and the holders of the client relationships become even more of a valuable asset.

We have always been a fragile industry living project by project, except for the more established groups that have built up business partnerships with their clients on an ongoing consultancy basis. We’ve been the poor relation to the advertising industry for too long, even though our contribution to brands and their values is immense in proportion.

The saviour of our industry will be the synergy between advertising and design; working together to create the big idea through all media to the benefit of clients’ bottom line.

In design we have knocked the stuffing out of our craft by making it as available as canned soup – technology has let us run wild with print-outs in so many permutations that the idea is lost. We have ourselves to blame, not the client, as we are the purveyors of quality and the more work we show, the easier it is to lose focus on the brief and the idea.

The more we show, the more the client expects to see. The enlightened clients, of course, just want to see the solution to the problem – the one. Too many ‘other options’ are shown, watering down quality – ‘show bad work, get bad work accepted’. A good idea only has value if it is focused.

The confidence comes from interim review meetings with the client discussing sketchbook ideas and cutting out creative wastage by sharing the thought process. Solving the problem quicker doesn’t mean less quality, but usually a much fresher approach.

Technology has been a great asset for our business in speeding up the ‘legwork’, but in the wrong hands the craft is sometimes lost, along with the idea. Clients can manipulate so easily with this technology – many times the colour or typeface is tampered with, but seldom does the initial idea change.

The power of our industry rests with the big idea, be it in sketch book, Apple Mac print out, back of an envelope or simply voiced over the telephone. Ideas make brands, which is the logic and magic we bring to the party. The big idea is being lost in a plethora of graphic design style and technique and selling this to clients is selling our industry short. For sure Chanel No 5 is all about style, but the structural design is unique and ownable.

The design businesses that drive up creativity, and more importantly those individuals who endeavour to raise their own standards, increase the value not only of their companies but of our industry. The nurturing of young creative talent straight out of art college is vital to retaining an ongoing policy of putting the creative spark back into the business and giving them the encouragement to break new ground. Channelling this energy through the company is paramount with the more senior designers allowing this talent to grow through them.

Most young designers value the big idea, and thankfully, the teaching in our art colleges is of an extremely high standard, with the problem-solving process integral to the courses. We must retain this fresh approach throughout our businesses, passing the benefit on to the client through accurate, highly creative solutions that make their brands unique and memorable.

There will inevitably be a fallout of design groups this year because of the continuing tough economic climate and clients being cautious about how they spend their budgets, but through this period we must become stronger with our creative approach and have the confidence to sell it.

But by clients investing in those consultancies that endeavour to break new ground with their creative approach, they will build brands that add an intrinsic value to their business for the long term. Powerful ideas are a valuable asset to the bottom line, and we have to ensure that with the right attitude we have the confidence to allow the clients to buy into them.

Glenn Tutssel is executive creative director at Tutssels Enterprise IG

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