The announcement that WH Smith’s former design manager Jane Pollard is joining Lippa Pearce is likely to raise some eyebrows. Pollard’s heavyweight role as a major design client makes Lippa Pearce’s acquisition quite a coup.
Although Pollard declines to confirm the reasons for her departure from WH Smith after eight years, it is believed she was one of three design redundancies from a major overhaul at the retail group.
But why join six-year-old Lippa Pearce as design management director? Why not move to another internationally-renowned retail empire to wield powerful influence?
“I felt I had done everything I could do within a corporation,” says Pollard. “I was one of the people who introduced the idea that design should be used commercially. It had got to the point where anyone with opportunities to commission design was well briefed. We’d reached a safe stage, but I didn’t want to do it all over again.”
As a graphic designer herself, Pollard wanted to “get back into the environment of good design, which doesn’t necessarily happen in a big organisation”.
Hence Lippa Pearce, which has worked for Pollard and designed WH Smith’s English-language bookshops on the Continent.
She talks flatteringly of her new employers. “I began to realise how clever they were during this project, when they suggested ideas over and above the simple brief.” This is how she likes to work, says Pollard.
For Lippa Pearce, Pollard is the icing on the cake of a steady growth process over the past two years. “Her recruitment is a culmination of our expansion plans, not the start of something new,” says managing director Giles Calver.
“Two years ago we had a staff of ten, now we have eighteen people and a design team of eight. We’ve never had a formal account handling structure and Jane will take this role,” he says.
Further growth in numbers may not be the name of the game, but Lippa Pearce is obviously broadening its outlook. Senior designer Rachael Dinnis and production manager Nicky Perkins have just been made associates and will develop “key areas of interest”, such as design education and new production methods.
Calver says that Lippa Pearce pounced on Pollard as soon as rumbles of WH Smith’s restructuring started to circulate. “We have been courting her for ages,” he says.
Pollard’s primary role, according to Calver, is to build up the client service and show that the company offers “an enhancing depth of thought”. She has “a unique perspective”, due to her experience, he says.
For example, Pollard says she could look “across” a client’s business and focus on aspects such as customer invoices and internal communications. “It’s easy to make an impact through design with these as much as with anything else.”
Pollard is insistent that she would “never ever get in between the client and the designer”, and that she wouldn’t force her suggestions. “It’s interesting to look beyond what you’re being commissioned to do, to make sure there isn’t anything around which undermines the client’s brand, but design is the leading offer and some clients need just that.”
Her other major role is following up projects. “Lippa Pearce hasn’t had anyone doing this specifically, and it will be good to know whether a design was successful or not,” she says.
However it’s presented, Pollard’s move is notable. She sees design management as a useful skill for a consultancy to purchase. And it’s not the first time it’s happened. Take John Mathers, the former head of design at
Safeway who left in February to become senior consultant at Sampson Tyrrell Enterprise . He is now running STE’s identity and change management programmes after “outgrowing his role” as the Safeway brand’s guardian.
Pollard’s CV can’t fail to impress. At WH Smith she advised Our Price, Waterstones, WH Smith Retail and WH Smith News. Not to mention the introduction of Newell and Sorrell to design the office supplies brand Niceday. She also worked in close conjunction with ideas man Michael Wolff, WH Smith’s outside consultant. From a client’s point of view, it could be reassuring to know there’s someone at a design consultancy who’s been on their side of the fence.
We’ll never know if Pollard would have stretched her wings sideways if the WH Smith restructuring hadn’t occurred, but Pollard’s appointment certainly underlines Lippa Pearce’s development into a fully-fledged player.