Confidentiality clauses are tying up too many groups

In the past week I’ve encountered four design groups deprived of the right to promote stunning work because of the stringent demands of over-anxious clients.

CDT Design could not publicise its far-reaching rebranding of ActionAid until some two months after it was completed, which puts the project outside media definitions of news. The opportunity could be lost to tell a deeply engaging story unless the consultancy enters the project into creative awards in the hope of getting recognition that way, or takes it round the conference circuit.

CDT’s plight is common. For while an ad agency can generally trumpet its success, design groups are increasingly tied into contracts that prevent even a murmur until well after the launch.

Two of the other groups I spoke to are not even that fortunate, having been told that the client will resort to law if the work is ever attributed to them. So that even rules out awards, which surely cast a good light over both the client and the consultancy.

The fourth group declined the project once it realised it could never use the end result as part of a new-business bid or to boost morale in the studio. It was a very brave move, and a decision not taken lightly as the project was substantial, but fees aren’t the only reward good designers seek. Let’s hope the client doesn’t come to regret forcing this group’s hand.

Confidentiality clauses are fine when national or commercial security is at stake. But once a product, brand or system enters the public domain it seems unjust that those involved can’t claim authorship. Very few projects are surely that sensitive.

All the consultancies cited here are high profile and the clients big, global players. You’d hope that such clients, with the insight to seek out some of the best people in design, would be proud to lead the charge for greater recognition. It would surely reflect well on them to be seen to be partnering their creative groups and sharing credit for the respect accrued as a result.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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