Congratulations to Imagination for maintaining pole position in the Top 100 this year. The ‘experience design’ specialist may not have made great strides in 2008 (see supplement), but it held its own in difficult times and has yet to meet a serious challenger.
This is no mean feat. For while this year’s Top 100 reflects a period before recession really kicked in in the fourth quarter of 2008, the signs were there earlier in the year, with events and exhibitions likely casualties as clients became hesitant about commissioning new projects.
Imagination’s continuing success suggests that creativity can be a winner in business, however tough times become. Clients still need to communicate with customers and stakeholders and to promote new products and services. The more astute the client, the more likely it is to turn to design for this.
But the Top 100 also shows that well-run design groups can succeed, even in recession. Keeping costs low and maintaining a fees-perhead ratio commensurate with an efficient business helps to guard against the uncertainties recession brings. Those that have done well this year have generally kept things in check.
Relatively few of the Top 100 groups anticipate major growth this year, but the smart ones will no doubt find new avenues for their expertise – witness Navyblue’s foray into Oman (DW 21 May).
We can also expect alternative business models to emerge. This is more likely to emanate from start-ups that are formed as bigger groups trim down, but established consultancies can take a lead in this. In this issue, for example, Landor’s European head Cheryl Giovannoni talks of a new style of leadership required in recession (see Business Insight, page 22).
The key thing is to stay positive, keep abreast of what is going on in the client world and understand the pressures your clients are under. It is also a great time to network within design and share experiences with your peers. Design is a supportive business and it is amazing how much that can help.