Waterfall urges risk-taking and ‘creative bravery’ to boost work and business

According to our Top 100 Consultancy Survey, things are looking up for many in design, with a third of those featuring in the charts projecting growth of 20 per cent or more this year (Design Week Top 100 supplement, 27 May).

Add this to the positive anecdotes being shared at industry dos and we can start to believe that the worst is over for design – for now at least.

What better time, therefore, to regroup and shape a better future, even with public spending cuts in the offing and another recession being predicted by some. And what better start point than the thoughts of a creative activist who has bounced back more than once from financial crises?

Simon Waterfall, now of Fray, but a founder of digital design groups Deepend and Poke, saw Deepend fail in the dotcom bust of 2001 and as D&AD President from 2008/9 helped that organisation out of the financial mire, yet still he maintains a positive outlook. Last week he told a design audience to ’put yourselves in harm’s way’ now to push boundaries and boost creativity. The premise is that you work to eat, metaphorically speaking, and risk is a way of achieving this.

Waterfall wasn’t just talking about food, but about sustenance in the broadest sense, taking a stance aptly summed up by Pearlfisher’s Jonathan Steel as ’creative bravery’.

Creative bravery manifests in great work and enhanced reputation among your peers – and it always shows in inventive business approaches. Looking back at the Top 100, Start Creative, for example, is thriving against the odds through a thrusting expansionist programme into overseas markets; Elmwood, meanwhile, had a challenging 2009, but a bold restructure and international growth plan has fuelled hopes for a good 2010.

Such examples show design at its best, refusing to lie down and take what is doled out. More consultancies need to heed the call to take risks – in the work as well as business – to rebuild their own and the industry’s standing.

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