Annual report

As 2006 draws to a close, Design Week surveys the eye-catching new work, the industry coups and the inevitable creative flounces that shaped the past year

Movers and shakers

Loewy Group pulled off the coup of the year, buying Williams Murray Hamm in a deal that sees £7m shared between Richard Williams, Richard Murray and Garrick Hamm. The deal followed hard on the heels of Loewy’s purchase of branding and communications consultancy Bite for £2m.

At the start of the year, Simon Bolton, former head of ad agency JWT in the UK, was parachuted in to take the helm of WPP stablemate Enterprise IG, while founder Dave Allen left after ‘much soul searching’ to join WPP’s Team Vodafone.

Two key figures quit the Design Council to set up on their own and weren’t replaced: Richard Eisermann left his post of design and innovation director, while Hilary Cottam, controversial winner of Designer of the Year in 2005, upped sticks and was joined by most of the Red team, which specialised in ‘transformational’ design.

Simon Waterfall, creative director of Poke, is set to become the next ‘design’ president of D&AD in 2007. In June, Stuart MacDonald quit The Lighthouse, Scotland’s national design centre, and was replaced by publisher Nick Barley.

There were big moves on the London consultancy scene: Domenic Lippa and Harry Pearce (founders of Lippa Pearce) became partners at Pentagram, Harriet Devoy left The Chase to walk the hallowed halls of Apple Computer as the first creative director for graphics for Apple Europe, and David Worthington was ousted as managing director of Conran Design Group as it was merged with its Havas-owned stablemate CGI Brandsense.

In an unusual move, Nike promoted erstwhile product designer Mark Parker to chief executive. But 2006 was also the year when the design industry said goodbye to two legends, Vico Magistretti and Alan Fletcher.


Design Museum

It’s been another incendiary year for the Design Museum. After the ignominious release of Alice Rawsthorn from her duties as director, the museum set off another firework display by announcing it would not be part of any plans for a national design centre. The museum vindicated itself though, with the subsequent appointment of Deyan Sudjic and a scheme to join the Tate Modern development with an ambitious new-build site. Both moves earned design’s favourite British venue great critical plaudits.

Jamie Hewlett won Designer of the Year, provoking a major rethink of the competition, which now looks like it will be confined to the cupboard of ideas past. And while there is still no news about an imminent return of James Dyson as chairman, the Alan Fletcher retrospective showed just what a valuable contribution the museum makes when it focuses on what it does best. ‹

Festival sagas


The London Design Festival had its fair share of critics, but this year the organising team sailed pretty close to the wind, though it seemed to have survived. Concern over its finances lead to an audit into its commercial viability by the LDF’s key funder, the London Development Agency, which is still being resolved. When Government bodies start audits, you need to start worrying because the outcomes can be plain to see well in advance. In this instance, a rumoured festival revolution seemed to have been stopped in its tracks, though new events will certainly abound come next September.

Former 100% Design stalwarts Ian Rudge and Jimmy MacDonald’s plans for the Truman Brewery in 2007 will be closely scrutinised, not least because they’ve already booked the whole space. How they tie up with other events, such as New Designers, will be of interest, not to mention how they will sit alongside 100% and the LDF itself. Their ambitious start-up venture throws up questions about how London’s design week will eventually be carved up. Is there actually room for all of these emerging shows?



Mobile phones

Apple Computer continued to leave the industry second-guessing about the launch of its own mobile phone, registering a trademark Mobile Me with the UK Patent Office in January and remaining secretive ever since.

Samsung undertook a global review of its product design strategy in a bid to bring new blood to the fore, while Nokia anointed Manchester-born Alastair Curtis as its new global head of design. He replaced American Frank Nuovo, who stepped down after more than a decade in the role.

The major kids on the block – Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson – continued to rule the roost with an ever-burgeoning portfolio of products that harness all the latest multimedia technologies.

In November, Sony Ericsson opened its first UK-based retail store on London’s Kensington High Street with a design by Checkland Kindleysides. The play-it-safe interior will no doubt contrast with the long-anticipated Nokia UK flagship store, a vast space that is being designed by the team behind Apple Computer stores, US consultancy Eight Inc, with a fit-out by London group Dalziel & Pow. It is due to open next autumn on London’s Regent Street.



Newspapers and magazines

Falling readerships for printed newspapers saw designers increasingly called upon to stem the decline with revamps, offering some treats in graphic design in an otherwise lacklustre year.

Neville Brody stopped working on The Guardian’s website, teaming up instead with Jon Hill to redesign The Times for the Internet age, featuring a new font – Times Modern. The reworking received a muted response, perhaps because the changes were largely restricted to ‘under the bonnet’ amendments.

Earlier in the year, The Observer followed in the footsteps of its parent, The Guardian, unveiling a Berliner-sized redesign, this time by Mario Garcia. (Garcia later also produced a Berliner-sized redesign for The Wall Street Journal.) The Guardian’s creative director Mark Porter was rewarded with one of the two D&AD black pencils awarded this year for his redesign of The Guardian in 2005.

Over the pond, Luke Hayman, the British design director of New York magazine, joined Pentagram in New York (and started work redesigning Time magazine with Paula Sher), while Fernando Gutiérrez left Pentagram’s London offices to set up on his own. Meanwhile, Simon Esterson created an interesting new design for left-leaning news magazine New Statesman. ‹


New for old


It seems that struggling television network ITV started the year much as it ended it, with an attempt to reverse its misfortune by bringing in a saviour.

In January, the broadcaster carried out one of the major rebrands of the year, with on-screen logos, graphics and idents designed by Red Bee Media. The new look was the channel’s latest attempt to compete in the multi-channel television market, and aimed to show it as an ’empathetic, warm and down-to-earth’ station.

Red Bee Media also helped rival (and the consultancy’s former parent) BBC1 to take on a fresh approach, when it was appointed in March to redesign the channel’s iconic screen idents. Advertising agency Abbot Mead Vickers BDDO surprised many in the industry by swooping in to beat screen specialists to create a new identity for BBC2.

Enterprise IG did not miss out in the year’s substantial rebrands, clinching a global brand identity revamp for Hewlett-Packard, the $89bn (£48bn) technology giant, in June, following an extensive pitch process.

A resurgence in merger and acquisition activity resulted in welcome work for branding consultancies. It took four months for NTL Telewest to rebrand as Virgin Media after the completion of the £962m merger between the cable company and Virgin Mobile in July. In November, Start Creative revealed the new brand identity.

The £7bn merger in the summer between Alliance UniChem and Boots Group resulted in a rebrand to Alliance Boots and a new corporate identity, designed by Creative Leap.

In the autumn, design went back to basics with a revamped logo for the Conservative Party, designed by Perfect Day. The tree logo, which represents ‘strength, endurance and renewal’, according to the consultancy, launched at the party conference in September.

The year is not without controversy in the branding world. Wolff Olins’s appointment by Sony Ericsson to create a new brand strategy resulted in ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty resigning the account in a huff for not being informed of the appointment and then disagreeing with the new direction.

Software company Quark also suffered ignominy when its in-house rebrand (the second in six months – the first by US consultancy Sicola Martin was deemed too close to that of the Scottish Arts Council) is compared to the logo of Sony Ericsson.



Going for gold

It’s probably the biggest show ever to roll into London, but for much of the year the London 2012 Olympics lacked a helmsman for design. Following mounting concern from the likes of Richard Rogers and Riba president Jack Pringle that the games architecture would be largely left in the hands of building contractors (of which only one, McAlpine, tabled a bid that met the Olympic Delivery Authority’s specifications for the primary stadium), in December the ODA looks to finally have appointed Ricky Burdett as principal design advisor.

Burdett is already an advisor to Mayor Ken Livingstone and will be seconded from his role at the Greater London Authority’s Architecture and Urbanism Unit to tackle the Olympic project. Archigram stalwart Peter Cook was also brought in to work on the design of the principal stadium with HOK Sport.

Slightly lower down the design food chain, Wolff Olins took Gold in the branding race – winning the job to create the overarching games emblem. It beat Omnicom sister group Interbrand – as well as Lambie- Nairn and Identica – to the work. Secretive at the best of times, there’s been not a whisper of what is going on behind Wolff Olins’s door since, but we’re told to expect the results soon.

Meanwhile, Applied Information Group started work on a wayfinding system for central and east London that will overhaul the way pedestrians are guided round the city. This should be in place for the swell of visitors in 2012.

Down in the nitty-gritty of marketing communications, Locog and the ODA are thought to be putting together rosters of design consultancies, the latter via the Central Office of Information. Locog is tendering for new media consultancies to work on a range of projects, including the redesign and build of its website, www. london2012.com.

In June, Locog also appointed former Transport for London group marketing director Chris Townsend as its commercial director.


Sustainability

Environmentalism began to pack a punch in 2006. Unexpectedly, this was helped in no small part by an economist’s view of the costs of complacency. Sir Nicholas Stern’s review to the Treasury laid out a cost versus return-on-investment argument to convince business and Government to slow the planet’s plunder.

Needless to say, design was key. Materials, product development, delivery mechanisms, efficiencies and many other areas of product and service development can be influenced or guided by designers.

The inaugural Green Awards took place in November, offering the design and marketing industries gongs for work that was deemed sustainable and environmentally conscious. Endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme, mobile company O2 picked up the grand prix for packaging – designed in-house – reduced to letterbox size in order to cut down on courier deliveries.

But while designers can make a difference, large-scale projects remained more difficult to control. Philips creative director Oscar Peña admitted to Design Week that quality control over the materials used in many consumer electronics components – often provided by third parties – are an industry-wide problem.

Not surprisingly, legislation is the main motivation for electrical and electronics companies to consider sustainable product design. Two new items of EC legislation – the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and the Directive on the Restriction of Use of Certain Hazardous Substances – are key to this. But despite originating in 2002, WEEE remains in the draft stage and spent much of this year in public consultation.

To help designers stay Green in the day job, a website was launched in May – www.twig.uk.com – offering information on how to source sustainable paper and print products.

Meanwhile, a growing list of consultancies are focusing solely on environmentally conscious design work. Sprout Design, Element06 and Thomas Matthews are just a few of the groups taking this approach to a broad range of design disciplines.



Government and design

Following Chancellor Gordon Brown’s fanfare over the comprehensive proposals in the Cox Review at the end of 2005, this year it was time to actually start doing things. How telling is it that the year was relatively quiet, then?

The only real move on the proposed national centre for design and innovation was in the abstract – much planning and little in the way of formal announcements. The appointment of former Creative London head Graham Hitchen as director of the initiative was a step forward, but the design world now waits to see which partners will sign up to be a part of the national centre, which should be known by early next year. Only then will we have any notion at all as to what sort of shape this centre may, or may not, eventually take.

The Design Council got busy with skills this year, canvassing the industry with the controversial Keep British Design Alive campaign. And it finally launched its Design for Business programme, rebranded as Designing Demand in an attempt to grab the attention of the more economically minded, it seems. Its brave attempt to launch a Scorecard, evaluating how implementation of the Cox recommendations were faring, was scuppered at the eleventh hour by none other than the Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling, who now wants a fuller report.

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