Rosters breed client and designer complacency

Frederick Davies (Letters DW 2 June) says that we can expect great things from design rosters, but fails to recognise that within the design industry there are few things more unpopular and believed to be in need of genuine reform.

Frederick Davies (Letters DW 2 June) says that we can expect great things from design rosters, but fails to recognise that within the design industry there are few things more unpopular and believed to be in need of genuine reform.

While it’s true that rosters can help junior brand managers select a consultancy when they have no first hand experience of the choice available, once they become more established and perceptive they’re not only capable of choosing who to work with, but, in fact, would often prefer to continue working with the people they have shared a prior successful and productive relationship.

Clients get promoted, move jobs, change careers… and so do designers.

And this really is the big problem with rosters, because it overlooks one of the fundamental realities of the design business: that it’s people who make design consultancies what they are. The talent and experience inherent in a design team, the skills and passion that were used to win a place on a roster in the first place resides with those people and not the design consultancy itself. If those people leave then those abilities move too.

There are many ways to get round a roster when people really want to work together. Senior brand managers and marketers would rather work with the people they know and, after all, part of their own seniority is down to the fact they bring with them experience and contacts.

Rosters have few redeeming qualities, neither for the client, the brands, the marketers, designers and, incredibly, sometimes not even the groups selected for inclusion. The sooner this restrictive practice is dropped the sooner we can get back to competing on a level playing field, where true skills win out, clients get to work with the right people on every job and consultancies have to stay on their toes because they’re only as good as their last job.

David Bicknell, Creative director, Echo Brand Design, London W14

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