The year in view

Below we select the most memorable moments of 1996, – a year which has seen its fair share of new stars, dubious identities and takeovers, but has overall had an upbeat feel


The year kicks off with the Government’s Business Links scheme under attack from Labour in the House of Commons, and reports of the “parlous financial state” of the network from auditors.

London interiors group XMPR is in trouble, but saved from liquidation as creditors hold off.

Edinburgh City Council continues the trend for Scottish councils to run an identity free pitch – and is slated by Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth for its trouble.

Greenwich beats Birmingham to host the Millennium Festival in 2000, as Imagination wins out over Event and Neal Potter Design Associates to create the party of the (next) century.

Christopher Frayling is the bookies’ choice to succeed Tony Jones, who gives notice to relinquish the rectorship at the Royal College of Art.


London starts to hot up as the happening place, but its new identity by Beresfords fails to convince designers it’s the marque of a major world city.

There’s trouble at Wickens Tutt Southgate as director Duncan Bruce quits and a creditor threatens a winding up order – the first few chapters in a sorry tale that had to wait ten months until it reached a happy ending.

The European Monetary Institute announces a limited contest to design the contentious single European currency, prompting controversy about its methods.


Delivery service Red Star rocks the design industry, employing a fresh design graduate to create its nationwide identity.

Bristol product group Kinneir Dufort brings a breath of fresh air to the Design Week Awards, winning the grand prix for its HandiHaler inhaler for asthma sufferers.

Design Week’s Top 100 consultancy survey shows confidence is building in design. But a Design Business Association study finds that clients are driving down fees and that consultancies are still suffering financially.


Design in Action creative director Mark Chittenden is ousted and director of planning David Gray also leaves. The two will reappear in the summer.

XMPR director James Hagger departs to set up Studio Hagger. That just leaves Rob Davie as an original founder member of the troubled retail group.

Fitch sustains its return to profit. Also in profit is Princedale, but design subsidiary MPL’s performance on brands raises question marks at group level.

Frank Binnie resigns after five years at the helm of Scottish Design and its predecessor, Design Council Scotland.

Adrian Caddy’s star is in the ascendant at Imagination. He’s the first creative director the consultancy has had, save for founder Gary Withers.

Think-tank the Social Market Foundation slams the Government for allowing design-illiterate civil servants to handle Whitehall’s 40bn a year procurement.

Saul Bass dies.


Hardly anyone’s favourite client already, SmithKline Beecham halves its packaging roster.

Another identity furore, with new rail freight company English Welsh & Scottish Railway inviting “trainspotters” to design its logo.

Frayling finally gets his RCA rectorship.

Edinburgh’s EH6 reunites McIlroy Coates founders David Coates and Ian McIlroy. Coates is to head EH6’s new Newcastle offshoot NE6.

John Sorrell proves so statesmanlike as chairman of the Design Council that he is re-appointed for another two years. A CBE follows in June.

Coley Porter Bell seeks to boost its creativity by appointing Wickens Tutt Southgate senior Allison Miguel as creative director. Self-admittedly in something of a malaise, CPB spends 1996 considering its future direction.


Design Bridge designed the Euro ’96 ball but the packaging giant’s most high-profile founder Richard Williams is kicked out. Contractual and financial restraints will keep him on the leash beyond the end of the year. “In time,” says Williams, “I will put together what I would call tomorrow’s kind of design business.”

Amid a funding crisis, Imagination impresses National Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley with a “thrilling” presentation of Millennium Exhibition designs. Still no viewing for the public, though.

Renfrewshire District Council manages to shortlist three non-designers from the 500-strong free pitch for its identity.

Tayburn McIlory Coates loses creative director Andrew Hunter to fellow Edinburgh consultancy Redpath Design. Design in Action head of brands Trevor Bradford resigns.

The Department of Health announces a 38-strong design roster created to last for two years. It represents something of a cull from the 150 previously on its books.

Nick Jenkins gets his presidential hands on the Chartered Society of Designers and reiterates his pledge for a CSD and DBA merger. But from the DBA’s viewpoint, would you remarry your divorced partner with almost a 1m dowry of debt? Adrianne LeMan pips Lin Gibbon at the post in the election for the CSD’s president-elect.


TKO’s Andy Davey and inventor Trevor Baylis are voted BBC Designers of the Year for their clockwork radio.

Stewart McColl resurfaces, being brought in by Liberty to review the landmark London store.

The aforementioned trio who left Design in Action – Chittenden, Bradford and Gray – launch their own new venture, called The Creative Leap, with Torres Group.


Holmes & Marchant International parts company with creative director Andy Duffy after less than a year.

RSCG Conran Design buys Worthington & Co in a deal which sees founder David Worthington usurp Ian Perry as managing director of a group which will end the year confusingly renamed Conran Design Group.

Wickens Tutt Southgate chairman Mark Wickens presumably has his fingers crossed behind his back while claiming the consultancy “is not up for sale and is not merging with anyone”.

Kellogg’s and Tesco clash over lookalike packs. The theme was to be revisited later in the year as McVitie’s and GrandMet both took umbrage with Asda’s own-brand lookalikes.

Chris Collis, managing director of Turner Duckworth, dies.


Fishy business at Wolff Olins as its client British Gas dips its toe into the credit card market by launching its Goldfish brand. Funny. We thought we’d seen it all before – and so did Addison, whose own goldfish image was patently spawned in the same creative pond.

The Sun splashes with a squiggle it claims is British Airways’ new 60m image makeover. BA meanwhile issues strong denials, and Newell and Sorrell still declines to comment on its identity review for the airline.

Glasgow gives its 1999 city of architecture and design megabash a dummy run with the 1996 International Festival of Design. Did anyone notice that so many of the stars were Sassenachs, with vacuum cleaner king James Dyson making a start on a programme of public performances set to run for the rest of the year?

Colourful times for Design Week as its tenth birthday looms and its traditional black and white image gives way to brighter hues.

Exhibition group MICE buys what is left of XMPR.

Abram Games dies.


Rodney Fitch has bounced right back, proving his prowess in South East Asia with the graphics job for what’s claimed to be the world’s biggest shopping mall, the Metropolitan Plaza at Chong Xing in China. But he really is in the limelight when talk becomes rife of a deal in the offing with Wickens Tutt Southgate.

Interbrand goes on a spending spree, buying New York packaging group Gertman & Meyers, only to add Swiss identity consultancy Zintzmeyer & Lux to its stable four weeks later.

Enigmatic group Tomato reluctantly hits the news for not designing Channel 4’s new on-screen identity – not quite that is, as the in-house design team allegedly came up with a circle device not unlike one Tomato had created earlier.

Young designers get a chance to show off their skills at 100% Design and suddenly it looks as if the UK is capable of putting on a full-blown furniture show.

Design is officially back on its feet again, with consultancies planning to boost their full-time staff by some 28 per cent over the next 12 months. And Design Week’s salary survey shows that hardly any are looking to reduce their teams.


The first Design Show is hailed a success by all concerned, and both the show and the Design Council’s Design in Business Week are booked for a second appearance next year.

James Dyson really is man of the moment, sweeping the board at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards with the DC02 cylinder cleaner.

Virgin “territory” appears to be spreading as Richard Branson and friends plan to take on cosmetics retailing and put the final blush on the first Virgin Brides outlet. Then there’s the Virgin Express airline, taking to the skies over Europe with a Rodney Fitch-designed, and plans for Virgin Rail as it purchases the CrossCountry rail franchise.

Meanwhile, “frustrated of Tesco” Kevin Vyse quits his job as design manager with the supermarket chain. “Matters of design policy” are cited as the reason.

Also moving on are BDG/ McColl’s Andy Myring and Neil Prior, both bound for a new WPP branding venture to be set up with the consultancy’s former retail design director Graham Freeman. But the biggest surprise is Steve Gibbons’ departure from The Partners as the consultancy enters what it calls a new phase of its evolution.

Design House rounds off a difficult year by making four redundancies.

Northcross starts a spending spree by buying exhibition company Isys. More purchases will follow.

Paul Rand dies.


Rodney Fitch finally cements the deal with WTS, taking a majority stake in the consultancy.

MPL managing director Roger Heathcote is tipped as leaving. Four staff are made redundant but MPL continues to insist its brands work will continue.

And BDG/McColl managing director Stephen Todd starts to pack his bags for Spain with plans to “retire” in March.

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