Could trends forecasting be the new design strategy?

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One of the great joys of design is the enterprising way in which consultancies do business. There is no set pattern. Each group has its own management style, reflecting its culture and personality, which is one of the reasons we invite practitioners to share their experiences with the wider community through our weekly Business Insight section.

Given this, it is no real surprise to see Conran Design Group breaking the mould in its deal with corporate and public sector branding specialist 35 (see News, page 3). It is, however, extraordinary for a group like CDG, owned by global marketing services conglomerate Havas, to court an independent partner rather than find one within its parent group.

The fit looks good though, bringing together complementary client bases and expertise. It helps too that members of the management team have worked together before. They will have learned a good deal from their experiences at Fitch some five years ago, when moves to integrate four disparate consultancies, including the then Bamber Forsyth, under the Fitch banner led to a spate of top-level departures.

What promises to be particularly interesting about the latest deal is how CDG and 35 handle their mutual growth plan, especially given their desire to bring trends forecasting into the mix. Trends have proved a lucrative business for the likes of Paris-based guru Li Edelcourt and London’s GDR, which focuses on retail trends, but these groups tend to work directly with client businesses rather than through consultancies. Though all design groups claim to foresee trends, Fitch, through its association with WPP stablemate Peclers in Paris, is one of the few to have integrated forecasting into its portfolio.

If CDG and 35 succeed in their quest for a trend-forecasting partner, they could be setting a new standard for branding. Could it be that trends will take over where strategy left off as a service offered by design businesses? That would certainly mark a new trend.

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