Rosters are here to stay, so use them to do good work

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The R-word is well and truly back in design. Rosters have long been with us, but there has been a flurry of them of late, from Sainsbury’s to Heinz, and we are told more roster adjustments are due.

This makes sense, given the commercial pressures on brand-owners to fight their corner through design as competition hots up. Meanwhile, with the Design Council leading the campaign to improve public sector design buying, we might expect to see more rosters within the Civil Service, given the accountability incumbent on Government agencies.

Some maintain that rosters are bad, tying consultancies to clients that may choose not to use their services, but which demand loyalty nonetheless. But that is an old-fashioned view, with exemplary roster ‘proprietors’ thinking more now in terms of partnership and brand guardianship. Some, such as developer Land Securities, are keen to foster fresher talent and to shop for groups outside the M25.

For design, this is refreshing news. With good clients reassessing their rosters regularly, there are opportunities for all. There is a place for big specialist groups, particularly in branding, with invaluable sector experience and the ability to see the biggest project through, but also room for smaller players. More enlightened clients will team roster groups on projects if appropriate.

So, how do you get on to the best rosters? It’s the same as winning any project. Simply, be consistent in the quality of your work – start with a big idea, whatever the brief, make sure it is superbly executed and promote it in the circles that count.

This comes across in Design Week’s podcast – on – relating to the 2008 Creative Survey. The Partners’ Greg Quinton and Glenn Tutssel of The Brand Union talk of the importance of creativity, while Joe Ferry of Virgin Atlantic explains partnership from a client’s perspective. Their words ring true for all design success, whether the prize is a job, an award or a roster place. Check it out.

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