A collaborative approach that others could follow

It’s one of those happy accidents that has Mike Exon addressing the pros and cons of collaboration between complementary groups, while we report on Table, the venture set up by Tim Pyne, Brian Shepherd and others to offer the best work across disciplines. Nor is it that surprising, given that collaboration has so far been one of the rally cries of design in the new millennium, particularly among the more militant independents.

But Table, which Pyne explains is based around the idea of a dinner party of eight people, takes the argument for collaboration further than the one-off project-based initiatives that bring, say, a branding specialist and an interiors group together. It is a limited company and will be marketed as such by Shepherd, a veteran of ‘experience’ specialists Imagination, Caribiner (now Jack Morton Worldwide) and more recently Enterprise XP. And, according to Pyne, it will extend its range beyond the expertise of its eight founders, bringing in ‘the best’ of any discipline if the job demands it.

Of course, it is not a new notion. Multidisciplinary group Amalgam was set up in the 1990s, for example, by a handful of designers who had previously worked with architect DEGW and wanted to work on their own or together as projects determined. You could even argue that Pentagram, with its array of partners across various disciplines, invented collaborative practice with quality as a non-negotiable goal.

The difference is that Table is not just about design. It includes advertising, under the auspices of Marcus Fernandez, retail expertise through former Dorothy Perkins creative director Nikki Hillier, writing and other non-design skills. And because of this rich mix of experience it is likely to take on diverse clients – it is currently talking to a supermarket giant, but Pyne’s background suggests museum and exhibition design, while Hillier’s hints at fashion retailing, for example.

It is highly likely that Table will succeed – though even if it doesn’t its component parts maintain their integrity as independent businesses. This is largely because it claims to offer clients what we are led to believe by global marketing services conglomerates they want – quality and diversity, without too much effort. With projects such as elements of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s £150m ten-year development plan on offer, its launch couldn’t have been better timed. But with the likes of supermarkets and high street retailers also looking to enhance customer experience in every possible way Shepherd shouldn’t be short of job leads. We hope his efforts for Table will open up the market for others in design to join the party.

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