Quash any arrogance and instil a greater confidence

If you compare design with advertising, you’ll find a good deal more camaraderie in design and much less back-biting. That, at least, is what those who’ve straddled both worlds say. Advertising creatives are traditionally seen as bitchy and arrogant, while the design community is matey, but lacking in confidence.

Of course, these views are extreme caricatures. But there is an element of truth in them – particularly the low regard in which design groups tend to hold themselves in the face of the perceived might of the client. And as design and advertising get closer – as communications platforms broaden and economic pressures hit both sectors – it’s worth looking at what design can learn from its creative cousin.

For a start, the design community would do well to nip any tinges of arrogance in the bud. It doesn’t help anyone. To support each other, praising rival groups publicly for their achievements says more about the maturity of key industry players than pointing out their failures. It also creates a good impression of design, while giving less prominent groups a standard to aspire to.

Camaraderie and sense of community are there, but should be fostered by official bodies. Networking events already happen, but how about bench-marking schemes and similar initiatives to enable members of the various organisations to learn more closely from each other?

But the big one is surely confidence, and here advertising scores, the greater spend involved demanding input from senior executives rather than staff lower down the client chain who are design’s contacts. It’s significant that great design is more often created when the client company is small and entrepreneurial and the consultancy has direct access to its founder.

So how do we build confidence? Internally, winning creative awards is a great way of boosting morale and attracting the best talent, but so too is doling out praise wherever it is due, rather than just censure.

Externally, it is down to measurement. Design has to be seen by clients as providing value for money – which is what the Design Business Association’s International Design Effectiveness Awards are about – but there are other ways. The Design Council, among others, is working on schemes with industry and with science and technology to prove design’s ability to boost national wealth and improve the quality of life.

Such initiatives take time to bed in. But there’s nothing to stop consultancy bosses introducing their own means of measuring design’s success. It is only through concerted effort that we can effect a real cultural shift among UK clients in favour of design.

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