Real vision takes more than a beauty parade

It doesn’t take a genius to know that things are changing for UK designers. Business has picked up and as technology moves on apace and consumer expectations escalate, clients and consultancies alike are regrouping to seize new opportunities.

Would that our European cousins could be as confident, as the recession we have hopefully left behind starts to bite in countries such as Germany. The economic crisis is not as acute on the Continent as the desperate situation we’ve had here, but designers there are still feeling the pinch.

Good can come out of anything, even recession, and UK design learned a lot about business as it tightened its belt. The upshot is a handful of exemplary consultancies that have come through it more than intact, even if they have gone through radical shifts in the process. The question now is what lies beyond survival. What kind of future might design businesses expect in a world that’s quickly changing?

The Pan-European Brand Design Association last week met in France to discuss just that, and while you wouldn’t expect cast iron findings to emanate from such an international event, pointers emerged from the discussions. The main thrust was that design groups ready to set convention aside and harness change are the most likely to succeed into the next century. That change might be in the way they work – who they put in their teams or the links they form across disciplines and national borders. Or it may be in moving from a passive to a proactive stance with clients being faced with new challenges to their brands and businesses.

Good tub-thumping stuff, but for many design groups the first step has to be to create a vision for themselves and communicate it effectively. We in the industry know the differences between consultancies, but the subtleties are often lost on clients. Their concern is to get the job done well, not to foster design. If design groups made more effort to spell out exactly who they are, pitches might be less of a beauty parade and they’d do us all a favour.

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