I write in defence of the small design consultancy.
As a former associate director of FutureBrand Davies Baron (now renamed as FutureBrand), I remember the ‘corridor’ company networks and I can confirm that the larger groups do, indeed, have the benefit of size, resources and geographical diversity.
Just like McDonald’s, large groups also deliver the same consistent, measured and reliable product prepared to the same strategic method every time.
In my opinion, it is in the small, close-knit outfit that the culture of creativity really thrives and intuition plays as important a role as research, strategy and process.
Great ideas have always come from individuals and small teams not councils or departments. Consider Paul Smith, Paul Rand or Ian Schrager.
Smaller consultancies are frequently more in touch and efficient. Overheads are lower, response times faster, approach more flexible, but, most importantly, the lines of communication are far shorter.
Clients can be directly involved in the process and methodology adjusted to suit the individual client.
I would liken the experience to a visit to a good restaurant where the owner chef, maybe a Gordon Ramsey or Giorgio Locatelli, is personally involved in, and responsible for, the quality and experience of a customer.
Now a partner in a small consultancy of 22 staff, I take personal interest in, and responsibility for, the well being of my team and my clients. We employ an internationally-based staff for diversity and more than half of our work is carried out for overseas clients, which include multinationals as well as successful entrepreneurs. I think that we have a reasonable international perspective.
Yes, Charles Trevail, I think you are missing something. As ‘creativity’ and ‘structured monolith’ are terms as diametrically opposed as black and white, how can the global network remain effective, act nimbly and win on quality? Or, as I just read in a quote from Lou Gerstner, talking about IBM: ‘Can the elephant be made to dance?’