Design is best left out of corporate equation

It is obviously good news to hear that prospects are brightening for design consultancies offering strategic input rather than simply selling the art and craft of design (DW 7 June), but is this really the right direction for design?

Design is the poor relation in the family of management consultancy, no doubt because fashions have changed since its enthusiastic take-up in the Eighties, but also because its impact on the balance sheet has never been that impressive. The claims of the design effectiveness lobby notwithstanding, it appears unlikely that this will change much in the foreseeable future.

It could be argued that forcing design into an analytical, process-oriented consultancy model actually compromises the one thing it does have going for it: the use of imaginative, right-brain functions to come up with ideas that can influence, motivate and inspire.

This certainly seems to be borne out by the spate of flaccid design solutions, lacking wit or emotional resonance, that have been trooped through the pages of Design Week in recent years.

Instead of turning ourselves into second-rate consultants, wouldn’t we do better to emphasise the difference between a design approach and conventional problem solving methodologies? And rather than trying to insinuate ourselves into the culture of our clients, aren’t we better remaining as the outsiders – the ones who say what others can’t, because we see what others don’t? Management is crying out for the sort of contemporary thinking designers are so adept at.

Isn’t it time we made this the focus of our offer, instead of apologising for it?

James Souttar

Just Proportion


Lincolnshire LN11 OQT

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