Commercial decisions outweigh codes of practice

I couldn’t agree more with Jonathan Ford that the design industry ‘turns on an axis of fear’ (Design Business, DW 13 January). At times it feels like fear and desperation.

I couldn’t agree more with Jonathan Ford that the design industry ‘turns on an axis of fear’ (Design Business, DW 13 January). At times it feels like fear and desperation.

If anyone doubts this, just remember the enormous queue of design consultancies that snaked halfway across London’s Leicester Square to attend the Olympics bid identity briefing. Most people queuing were fully aware this was a free pitch. For me, that queue was powerful proof of an extremely nervous industry.

Jonathan calls for a code of practice for pitching and commissioning. The fact is, however, the Design Business Association has had such a code of practice for some years. The DBA Code of Conduct states, ‘Members should not take part in pitches which require unpaid work. The level of payment for pitches should relate to the time and effort involved.’ That seems pretty clear to me.

In reality, different design bodies can generate as many codes of practice as they want, but doesn’t it really boil down to a commercial decision for the design consultancies involved, which are all operating in an extremely competitive market? The design industry is not alone in this. Look at law, where some firms now offer no fee trial periods or no win, no fee deals. Like design groups, they are merely responding to a tough, competitive environment. It’s their right to do so.

Ultimately, individual design consultancies have to look at their own businesses and decide how they want to operate and position themselves, and then accept the consequences. Just bear in mind, though, that one such consequence is that you will no longer have any right to call yourself a consultancy. You’ll just be an agency that’s briefed.

Jonathan KirkFounder2FruitionHove BN3 5SB

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