Opportunity knocks for breakaway design talent

If you had to use one word to sum up the year for design so far it would be movement. So many high-profile people have changed their jobs – of their own volition or otherwise – that we can expect the industry to have quite a different shape, in terms of personalities, come Christmas.

It’s part of a continuing trend that has seen the likes of Body Shop design head Franco Bonadio and now former E-fact boss Crispin Reed go client-side (see News, page 5), while erstwhile Samsung design head Mark Delaney enjoys freelancing for the likes of Paul Stead’s new group The Brewery. Established industry figures like Phil Jones, formerly of EHSBrann, have gone solo and admen like Nick Hough and Jez Frampton, chief executives of Lambie-Nairn and Interbrand and Innocence respectively, have taken key design roles.

The ‘consultant’ route is popular for designers of a certain age – and massive experience – who have done their time on the client side. Paul King, one time design head at Tesco and Woolworths, former BAA design boss Raymond Turner, and Chris Holt, who saw through the controversial British Airways identity before joining the then Springpoint, all operate in this way – and appear to be enjoying their less corporate lives.

On the creative side there is movement too. Changes pending at Farrow Design and Johnson Banks are likely to spawn small creative hot shops in the way that similarly traditional breakaways like GBH, Blast and product design group Factory have done in recent years. Meanwhile, Intro founder Adrian Shaughnessy has taken to writing and other creative pursuits since he quit the consultancy.

But where in all of this are the new models for doing business? Most independent ‘movers’ like King, Turner and Holt have broadened their own reach – and with it the influence of design – while ad people are bringing a new executive dimension to the large branding groups. But most start-ups end up replicating the consultancies from which they came in the way they do business – and even in their design style.

Everyone still holds up Pentagram as the best model for a design consultancy – and some have tried to ape it. A lot cite collaboration with like-minded creative teams as their point of difference. But not since the design breakaways of the early 1990s, prompted then by recession, has there been any of the freshness that St Lukes brought to advertising at its inception, nor the spirit of, say, Mother.

Design is just as capable as advertising of effecting real change. So what about it? We look forward to seeing groups boasting true difference that boosts creativity and suits the client too.

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