We knew it anyway, but it’s good to have it confirmed. The design business has made a big comeback and prospects look good for the future.
Design fee-income was up to 343m during 1997 for the Top 100 groups, a rise of almost 25 per cent on the previous year, even though we’ve been strict about including only fees earned through UK offices in the chart. Also, for various reasons our listing doesn’t include global player Landor, building design group BDP and thrusting graphics and multimedia consultancy The Attik. Their input would have boosted the figures even more.
Staffing too is up 24 per cent to 5000 full-timers within the Top 100 groups. And many consultancies have told us their staffing levels have risen since they completed our survey form. Figures of between three and 30 new design staff have been cited by groups over the past week, not to mention the number of smaller, but high-profile start-ups we’ve reported on this year.
What better time for the Bank of England to start to monitor design (see News, page 3). It’s not yet clear what it will do with the data gleaned by Roy Fleming, but at least the industry is considered significant enough for appraisal. The City’s involvement with design is potentially more valuable even than the Government’s, if we can sustain its interest in the longer term.
One thing sure to help is the increasing emphasis on design effectiveness. Over the past few years, various ways have evolved of measuring design’s contribution to the bottom line. This is down to two main factors: the Design Business Association’s perseverance with its Design Effectiveness Awards; and pioneering design management courses which have put evaluation of design on the agenda for many businesses.
It’s still not as easy to measure the commercial benefits of a design project as, say, the success of a TV ad campaign. There’s often much more subtlety involved. But the simple key is to set out your objectives at the outset of a project and look at ways to assess if they’ve been met.
Design is used to having to fight its corner – and for less financial reward than other creative sectors. Take the Top 300 ad agencies ranked in Campaign magazine earlier this month. All agencies in the top 20 reported billings for 1997 of 100m-350m-plus. But design has taken measuring effectiveness on board, and the best groups can show that their work pays. This can only boost design’s standing in the business world and help consultancies win the kind of work they wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago.