Growing pains can lead to strength and muscle

Size looks set to become an issue in design again. With almost 30 per cent growth in consultancy staffing predicted for the next 12 months (see salary survey, page 14), we can assume the days of downsizing are over for most of the industry’s key players. Growth is on the agenda at last.

The survey doesn’t show the level of movement in design indicated by news of big shifts at the senior end of the business. Chris Bradley is the new creative director at Smith & Milton Original, a promotion announced this week, and all eyes are still on Richard Williams, who vowed to launch a consultancy when he left Design Bridge in June. Nor does our trawl spell out the keenness of consultancy heads to pay decent wages to their staff – many have asked Design Week for guidance on salaries this year, whereas previously their generosity might have extended no further than keeping their people in work.

What the survey does show is that designers now feel sufficiently confident to contemplate movement – and expect pay increases of between 1000 and 4000 to do so. It also suggests that consultancy bosses are keener to invest in their staff, by way of training them in the new skills they’ll need to move forward.

It is good to see signs of expansion. To have influence as an industry, design needs a critical mass, and that’s been badly eroded over the past few years. We can also hope that bigger teams might mean shorter working hours for designers and staff exhausted by trying to keep afloat through tough times.

But it’s crucial that the industry learns from the pain it’s suffered and doesn’t grow just for the hell of it. The smart business brains are saying it’s not enough now for managements to commit to doing things better. That sentiment should always be there. What’s more likely to tip the balance is a strong belief in trying to do things differently.

Making a difference and showing it is the essence of successful design. It makes sense that it should work just as well in creative business practice.

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