Careful thought is central to creativity – and to business

Given the number of design consultancies claiming strategic skills in their promotions, it is remarkable that only 36 of the Top 100 groups can put a figure on the earnings they make from strategic work for clients (see News Analysis, page 9).

The Top 100 listing, to be published next week, is ranked according to their fee-income and it is generally the more business-minded groups that enter the trawl, which makes it all the more surprising. Words such as ‘positioning’ creep into many branding sagas and there is awareness that the clever money notched up by management consultants and their ilk comes from ‘thinking’. Yet very few consultancies cash in on that offer – or rate it sufficiently to separate out the earnings they derive from it.

Of course, ‘thinking’ is an integral part of design, which could be why so many consultancies appear to give it away for free. Ironically, those who rail against free-pitching – giving visual work away for free – don’t baulk at sharing their quite detailed thoughts before a job is won. But without it design is shallow.

Some of us were reminded just what a difference careful thought can make at a gathering in London on Monday evening to celebrate the life of Alan Fletcher, who died six months ago. Designers and clients of all inclinations assembled at the Victoria & Albert Museum to raise a smile and a glass to the man who showed us all what can be achieved when hand, heart and mind engage – and had the rapier wit to match his visual talents.

Those who met Fletcher couldn’t help but be moved by him – exasperated even – and his genius continues to touch lives. Thinking was as much a part of his work as was his fluid drawing style, and putting those thoughts into action set him apart from so many. His legacy is not just to remind us of The Art of Looking Sideways, exemplified in his eponymous book, but of the art of thinking. The next step is to look at ways of charging for it though – something Fletcher would wholeheartedly applaud.



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