Grey clouds over 2002, but there were silver linings

Of all the events covered by our Review of the Year, what will the year 2002 be remembered for in design? We’ve seen financial institutions discredited with a disastrous effect on the branding and identity giants and redundancies across the board. Meanwhile, WPP Group boss Sir Martin Sorrell issued gloomy predictions of no real recovery for the marketing services sector before 2004.

It was the year that established players such as Basten Greenhill Andrews went down, in that case with its key men being mopped up by Citigate Lloyd Northover, and when Rodney Fitch was short of funds again, but finding new life at Portland Design. Planning workloads was hard as projects were cancelled or stalled and job prospects not great. But there is a much brighter side to all this and it is this positive legacy that I believe will mark design’s card for the next 12 months.

For a start, it was a year that saw in-house design gain respectability and clout. The foundations laid by Jonathan Ive at Apple Computer in the US for ground-breaking work has had a knock-on effect, with the likes of car giant Ford focusing on in-house resource to build allegiances with related lifestyle sectors.

Meanwhile, a shake-up among design managers in retail culminated in former Enterprise IG creative head Jon Turner joining Boots the Chemists this month in a powerful new internal role. Such moves don’t just create a new stream of in-house design jobs. They also put design on a firmer footing with clients and bode well for the way they deal with consultancies.

Then we’ve seen a number of key individuals in design go independent. Raymond Turner did a deal with BAA, as did Douglas Cooper with The John Lewis Partnership. Malcolm Garrett left AMX (now Arnold Interactive) and Paul King quit M&K Design. This provides a new tier of talent, matching creativity with experience.

Meanwhile, Terence Conran is weaving his magic again, this time in the mass furniture industry through joint venture company Content, formed with Christie-Tyler. If the venture succeeds, he will once more help build design’s credentials in a sector sorely in need of it.

And while the bigger London groups have taken a few knocks, we’ve seen great things from consultancies based outside the capital. Elmwood has expanded from Leeds and London to Glasgow, The Core in Hull is gaining influence with clients through great work, Manchester’s Love continue to win awards – the list goes on.

So it’s been a year for reshaping, voluntarily or otherwise, and it’s been tough, but much of the outcome promises to come good. When we do hit Sorrell’s predicted recovery, design should be up to the challenge.

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