Design is well-geared to combat a recession

You can read what you like into Tesco’s decision to axe its in-house packaging design team (See News, page 3). But, given the supermarket giant’s somewhat patchy track record on design management, only a doom-monger would see the move in terms of a down-sizing exercise to hedge against a threatened recession.

The R word is back with a vengeance in the national media. But, as the hysteria about world recession starts to subside, a few voices of reason prevail, the most notable being an American economist talking on Radio 4 last weekend. He said the multinationals might be going through world recession, riding the roller coaster of global economies, but that small entrepreneurial businesses were experiencing boom.

He cited the average six-person graphics studio in London’s Soho to illustrate his point. That would explain why so many design groups are doing well, for even those we in the industry deem to be big are small businesses according to national statistics. Fortunately for design, our radio friend concluded that Britain’s economic future lies with these small, sharp-witted concerns rather than with companies too big to be flexible enough to harness change.

Design pundits are more concerned about the prospects of an economic downturn. Some markets have already proved unstable, notably the Far East. But consultancies working there have largely managed to pull out before the crunch came or to refocus on emerging markets in central Europe and elsewhere. Others have renewed their energy in the UK, in sectors such as fmcg, pharmaceuticals, broadcasting and telecoms that may fluctuate slightly, but which are generally sound.

It isn’t as bad for design as the media would have it. But it’s worth giving your business a health check. Management experts suggest the following, for starters:

Be clear about your offer and objectives;

Build strong relationships with existing clients, getting under each other’s skin. Better to have a handful of close liaisons than many clients you hardly know;

Nurture your staff, for their input makes your business, and their loyalty will be invaluable if things get tough or just really busy;

Be more creative, as well as providing commercially effective design; and

Be confident in what you’re doing, and don’t panic. Take expert advice if you’re unsure.

Adhere to these pointers and you’ll be on a surer business footing, whether or not recession bites.

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