Creativity is not just a designer-only trait

Franco Bonadio must be hot property right now. Given the ambitious expansion plans of some of the industry’s key players and the increasing globalisation at the top end of the branding market, any creative director putting themself on the market is sure to attract a lot of interest.

And, with a track record with global giants such as WPP Group-owned Enterprise IG and Young & Rubicam subsidiary Landor Associates, Bonadio can expect the keenest interest to come from outside the UK. The US is an obvious growth market for corporate design. But the big guns at WPP, FutureBrand and Interbrand are looking towards Asia Pacific, as well as consolidating in Europe, and creative directors with the experience to tackle these new markets are few and far between. The message here is that anyone seriously ambitious in the corporate field might have to travel to realise their dreams.

But Bonadio isn’t necessarily looking to get another big job in a big group. He’s talked about his future possibly being with smaller, more creatively led consultancies – and he isn’t the only creative director who feels this way. Take the great Michael Wolff and graphics stars such as Vince Frost and Michael Johnson. These people are unlikely to turn up heading mega teams – though Wolff and Johnson have both done time at Wolff Olins – because they believe that small is more beautiful.

There is a case for both arguments, and groups such as Wolff Olins and The Partners have shown you can take on big corporate clients and employ “suits” without losing your creative spark. But there is still a problem in finding good creative people at senior level whatever the size of a branding consultancy.

Once we’d have blamed the recession of the mid 1990s for the dearth of experienced talent around. A couple of generations were, after all, lost from the industry as graduates – young people who might have been senior designers today – left design in droves, taking their “transferable skills” with them. Now it is more likely that digital design is claiming the hottest talent.

But branding is a very different proposition from working in some other areas of design. It involves teams from across disciplines that might even include advertising and marketing. Perhaps given the need for this mix, groups keen to expand but unable to find the right creative director should look outside design.

Creativity, it is widely acknowledged, does not just reside with designers. Other “creatives” within a consultancy can motivate a creative team just as readily. Ad agencies have recognised this for years, so why not design groups. What do you think?

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