A marriage of convenience

Design Clinic and FM Design have an unusual relationship, but it’s obviously working well, reports Beverley Cohen

With graphics and interiors for a new chain of Virgin cinemas and a complete new Eurostar package, Design Clinic and FM Design’s recent spate of activity is hardly low-profile.

Design Clinic was appointed to work on the Virgin Group’s cinemas this month, triumphing over Rodney Fitch and Company and Fitch (DW 8 March). Leeds consultancy Watson Design will work in tandem with Design Clinic.

And London & Continental Railways’ 3bn plans to redesign Eurostar are trundling along nicely after the consortium won the bid over rival group Eurorail (DW 8 March). FM Design and Design Clinic are working together on this project.

So what is the relationship between the two groups? Design Clinic has 22 graphic designers and was originally the 12-strong in-house facility at the Virgin Group. In 1989 Virgin decided to divest itself of designers, and London’s FM Group snapped it up.

But no cash changed hands, says Steve Taylor, who oversees both groups: “Virgin acquired 20 per cent of the FM Group, and we acquired Clinic,” he explains.

The relationship with Virgin has remained, and a trickle of CD covers, posters, press ads and Megastore graphics from Virgin Retail has come to Design Clinic.

Virgin Cinemas, too, is obviously well-disposed, though Design Clinic and Watson Design had to win a credentials pitch. But Virgin is not the group’s only client. Other high-flying customers include Sony and Sky.

FM Design also has a ten-strong battery of furniture and product designers, renowned for creating the Kyo system for office furniture manufacturer President, Samsonite suitcases, and Tupperware. The group also includes FM Model Makers and I:SYS, which manufactures retail systems.

“One consultancy takes the lead and acts as project manager, putting together a team from the separate companies,” says Taylor. For example, Design Clinic was appointed to work on Virgin Cinemas, and it will select the seating designers from FM Design.

“Individual companies work in their own areas, but we’re under one roof and we overlap if need be,” says group director Ben Fether, adding: “It’s a new way to work but it really fits in with our clients, particularly those from the US.”

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