Digital design must realise its added value potential

A key aspect of industry surveys is the broad picture they paint and their clues for the future. While consultancy bosses compare their performance with that of their competitors and acquisitive concerns try to identify good prospects, pundits will look for signs that design is picking up and trends that foretell its fate.

Apart from justifying the cautious optimism of the past couple of years, one of the most significant trends in Design Week’s latest trawl is the apparent re-emergence of digital design as a commercial force (see Top 100 supplement).

The Top 100 listing of independent groups sees the advent of Incepta Online into the top ten and digital groups Reading Room and Conchango shooting up from last year’s position, with 34 per cent and 29 per cent growth in fees respectively over last year’s figures. Then, of course, there is award-winner BBC Broadcast, which makes its debut in the charts in seventh position, providing a good omen for potential buyers.

This is a welcome change from the scenario since the dotcom bust of 2001, in which digital groups vanished without a trace and ad agencies and others mopped up the crumbs, charging virtually nothing to furnish already lucrative clients with digital goodies.

Let’s hope that the restored fortunes of the specialist groups isn’t just based on website design – as it was before – but on work that pushes boundaries.

There is more than a hint that it will be, given that one of the key global groupings, WPP, has taken digital businesses on board. Though Sir Martin Sorrell’s empire is under constant pressure from shareholders to perform financially, Sorrell saw fit to acquire screen giant Lambie-Nairn and now boasts a major shareholding in innovative group Digit.

Websites are now invaluable for clients and this is reflected in services offered by communications and branding groups. But there is far more to digital design. Hopefully, it will start to realise its untapped potential.

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