Allison Miguel’s decision to set up as a creative troubleshooter couldn’t have been better timed. If, as financial pundits insist, we are in for a bit of a squeeze, design consultancies need more than ever to play up their strengths – internally, as well as to clients – and stress their points of difference.
Whatever the economic forecast though, Miguel has identified a real need that no one in the design industry is quite meeting. There are a growing number of design-friendly business gurus out there – the likes of Ian Cochrane at Ticegroup, Simon Rhind-Tutt at The Tutt Consultancy and accountant Willott Kingston Smith among them – showing consultancy bosses how to maximise financial performance, offer better client services and handle the all-important succession issue. But what about the creative output?
As Miguel points out, a design philosophy should be fundamental to a consultancy’s culture. It is what underpins stars such as Lewis Moberly and The Partners, but seems to have got lost in the mass of consultancies, often led by business folk rather than designers. In some cases merger activity has depleted energy at top level, new consultancy names have been applied like Band Aid to suggest a repositioning, strategic thinking has been added to the repertoire or head-line creatives have been brought in to build the creative offer. But the result to date has been an overall visual blandness in the work.
You could argue that raising creative standards is the job of the creative director. But unless the commitment to creativity runs through a consultancy and has strong support at board level, their efforts can be lost. We’ve heard too often of high-flyers brought in ostensibly to boost the design element of a consultancy’s offer, only to leave disillusioned after a relatively short time in the job because board-level support simply wasn’t there. To have an ally on the outside can only help.
It is also often hard to have an overview from the inside. This is one of the strongest arguments consultancies use to clients, so why not apply it to themselves? Several business heads have already grasped the mettle, bringing in the likes of Cochrane and Rhind-Tutt without feeling threatened, so why not bring in a creative troubleshooter as well?
We have long maintained that creativity doesn’t just reside in the design team, and that creative thinking is important throughout the organisation. But wouldn’t it be good to see more of it in the actual work? Miguel’s approach could be one way of achieving this. It would be good to see others like her follow suit.