Drawing lines between design and policing

Vicky Sargent’s piece last week on the changing relationship between client and “consultant” in the corporate identity sector was to some extent salutary. The appalling devaluation of the discipline in the late 1980s was entirely deserved, with large high-profile organisations representing themselves with facile and, in some instances, disagreeable visual images.

But some of us are designers, not business management consultants. Design has to do with individual and intuitive talent backed up by intellectual fibre – the ability to grasp the essential requirement of any particular market and to communicate visually the USP and personality of the client company in an intriguing and compelling manner.

The subsequent policing and management of the implementation and maintenance of visual identity programmes is, as David Griffiths points out, tending to pass into the domain of internal management in the case of large organisations. So be it, as long as they employ appropriate design management expertise which will minimise the devaluation of the integrity of the concept (not generally my experience hitherto).

The result of this trend is in many ways unfortunate for the design industry, not least of which is the forced reduction in consultancies’ staff due to a diminution in the volume of implementation work.

We probably only have ourselves to blame for this situation, with the overt greed and cynicism displayed (or at least reported) in the late 1980s.

It is my belief that we in design are now, due to the catharsis of the recession, more professional in our approach to client liaison, but it may be too late to repair the damage.

Nicholas Jenkins

The Jenkins Group

London SW1

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