People are the defining factor of a design group

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Why do clients find it difficult to choose between design groups? Or, put another way, why do designers all look so similar? The answer lies in your observation that “too few have a proposition to offer clients” (DW 12 June).

And it’s not only clients who inevitably lapse into arbitrary choices dependent on personal whim. How do talented designers decide where to work? Just look at the advertising at the back of this magazine. What is there, really, to distinguish one job ad from another?

It all starts with the individual. This is that time of year when every degree finalist sets out to show that 20-odd years of careful nurturing have produced a brain capable of having ideas. Landing a good job only marks the beginning of the curve. Now, they have to start matching creative inspiration with commercial realities.

We’ve recently been scouting for a middleweight designer and how distressing it has been to encounter so much disillusionment out there. It’s equally distressing to find so many of the industry’s foot soldiers incapable of doing things differently, trained instead to produce inoffensive, but predictable designs.

So how do you choose between designers? Give them some paper and a pencil and ask them to inspire you. Consider whether their idea could be sold by phone as convincingly as with Mac generated props. Ask yourself whether they are capable of seeing all the way around a problem, not just from one narrow perspective. That’s insight, but how many have really got it? How “rounded” are their personalities? Do they involve you in their thinking, or try to impose it?

And, to choose between design groups, simply look to see what kind of people they wheel out and whether they pass these tests. Our people are our proposition, so isn’t that the place to start?

Tim Singleton


London EC1

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