What would you do to change your identity?

What would you do if given the chance to redesign yourself? If a surgeon’s knife could reconfigure your features, what image would you pursue? As cosmetic surgery becomes as commercial as a make-up makeover (see Futures, page 22), anything is possible, with made-to-order looks set to join the mobile phone and CD player as a must-have for the Christmas wish list.

Treatment that was once a remedy for disfigurements causing acute embarrassment or psychological ills, from unsightly birthmarks and accident scars to a prominent nose or ears, is now deemed by some to be part of feeling good. How far will we go in pursuit of superficial “beauty”?

Chances are though that, given the choice, most people would look to surgery to regularise their features or even to copy the looks of a revered icon – more likely a Spice Girl than the Princess Royal, or Piers Brosnan in preference to Marty Feldman. Even our clothes show that, outwardly at least, we are generally more interested in being clones like Dolly the Sheep rather than the individuals those plucky pigs, the Tamworth Two, proved to be.

Creative folk are supposed to be different. It’s about self-expression and looking at the world through different eyes. But for the mass of the design industry I would contend that the myth ends there. The very consultancies that strive so hard to bring out the unique qualities of a client’s business, through identity, branding and retail work, knowing that it makes good commercial sense, are too often indistiguishable from each other to the uninitiated.

We in the design business know where the real characters lie; that their personalities shine regardless of outward trappings. But you have to meet them to know that, and what client, commissioning design for the first time perhaps, gets that opportunity? The lookalike promotions so many churn out aren’t much of a guide, nor, sadly, is much of the work. There’s too much servility and not enough originality in the offers most consultancies make.

We are in a new era for design, with confidence returning and world markets beckoning, however small a design group is. The design industry is in the throes of restructuring, this time generally in a positive way, to address new opportunities. We’re seeing moves and mergers within consultancy boardrooms and a myriad of start-ups forming as senior people relish the risks of being independent.

What most are still not considering though is how to do things differently, to project their personality. Be bold enough to do that, and you might find it boosts creativity and fun, resulting in the best deal for everyone.

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