Understand where design adds value

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After reading Clare Fuller’s letter about the remit of design agencies (DW 9 October), I feel that perhaps a more positive view can be taken. There is no point in admitting that our fees are being eroded by other organisations, or that the most effective strategy is to stick your head in the sand and hope for the best.

Inherent within this statement is an acceptance that the design market will shrink as communications activities are dealt with by more rounded consultants, which need not be the case.

I would like to offer my own view of the problem – Clare Fuller claims that management consultants “are different from us”; this is not true. The whole point of existence for any consultancy is to add value to its client’s business, whether this is achieved through more efficient use of IT, or through more effective communications matters little. Our businesses exist because we do add value to our clients, commercial activities.

My belief is that one reason for the increasing use of management consultants is their accountability, or knowing where each pound is being spent and what benefit that should bring (it sounds naive, but the principle is true). Design on the other hand has little to justify the cost/investment.

Take any brand: what value does an identity or piece of packaging hold? Ask anyone in the industry and they will tell you – easy recognition, reflection of values, empathy and the like. However, ask an accountant the value of that brand, he will give you a figure based upon the possibility of future cash flows, customer retention and so on.

Design is not included at any point. Indeed, I spoke to a leading accounting firm about this, and was told that if Walt Disney changed its logo tomorrow, there would be no effect upon the value of the brand – therefore, design does not add value.

This is a myopic view, and symptomatic of our problem. Design is not measured in the same way as other communication methods, when, in fact, it pervades every aspect of the said communications. I am not trying to force design agencies to offer advertising or PR – we should stick to what we know best – but we also have to reflect the changing needs of the marketplace.

In these days of transparency and shareholder value, the design industry needs to realise it must be accountable for its cost, and thereby understand where it adds value.

Geoff McCormick

Business development manager

Minale Tattersfield & Partners

Richmond

Surrey TW9 1AJ

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