The industry’s prospects are looking brighter and design is reshaping


So, design is out of the worst in economic terms and looking forward to a brighter future. This, at least, is the message from the independent UK groups that took part in this year’s Top 100 Consultancy Survey.

Last year saw more than a fifth of groups ranked in the Top 100 grow by more than 20 per cent, in terms of fee-income, and a mood of optimism prevails. What is more, design’s fortunes have seemingly taken an upward turn across the board of design, not just in interaction design as we might have predicted. Even retail a key economic indicator has provided some positive outcomes for design, though it and interiors generally remain less stable markets than, say, packaging and branding.

A job within a group is not the only goal for many emerging talents, as it may have been for their forebears

It has been tough though for everyone and a number of consultancies have either quietly disappeared or had to reinvent themselves to survive. Anecdotal evidence suggests Scottish groups were hit particularly hard and that many UK consultancies that did well last year achieved their success through overseas projects an option not always open to smaller players.

But there has been an upside too. The past couple of years has seen groups such as The Clearing, Conran Singh and, more recently, 101 and Aesop break away from established teams, with seasoned troopers at the helm, paving the way for the next generation of consultancies.

More telling though is the number of tiny, oneor two-person groups and collaboratives that have emerged during the recession with a discernible bent towards hand-crafting and print rather than slick branding. A job within a group is not the only goal for many talents emerging from college, as it may have been for their forebears.

Design is reshaping, which is all to the good. Change is invariably positive in the creative arena especially when it happens when the business is lean and ready to explore new practices.

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