Despite press reports of further staff cuts at the likes of Boots the Chemists, pundits were generally optimistic last week about the overall business climate in the UK. On the high street, for example, Tesco is in expansionist mood, with more convenience stores in its sights, and Somerfield is showing itself in a positive light. Meanwhile, within the marketing services sector there is talk of economic recovery starting to make an impact this year.
On the global stage, events such as the Athens Olympics and the US presidential elections are having a positive effect, possibly short-lived but enough to create opportunities for the creative industries. Add to this emerging markets for design as far afield as Russia, Hong Kong and Brazil, and those in the business who are prepared to broaden their horizons look set for interesting times.
Of course, much of this offers only ‘potential’ for UK design. The hard work is still to be done to convert prospects into reality. But we know that, to a large extent, in design you create your own luck, aided by a positive outlook and an entrepreneurial spirit.
There are signs of this attitude returning to design, not least within new groups and among high-powered individual ‘consultants’ bent on doing things differently as the industry enters a new era. The big branding groups, battered by the downturn in global projects and virtual disappearance of mergers and acquisitions post-Enron, are also showing more faith in the future, buoyed up by reports of renewed vigour in the US.
The feel-good factor is slower to return to middle-weight consultancies, as our analysis of freelance recruitment prospects shows (see page 20). Attitudes are mixed, with recruitment agencies more gung-ho than individual consultancies, according to our findings. But there are things consultancies can do to change their own fortunes.
The best way is through information and sheer nous, looking beyond the usual new business channels to find new outlets for their skills – or support to promote themselves more effectively. On a local level, the Business Links and initiatives such as Staffordshire’s Different by Design (DW 4 December 2003) can help to bridge the gap between design and industry. On a larger scale, organisations such as the Design Council – soon to announce its new agenda – and the British Council hold key data about markets here and abroad and can help to make the introductions.
So arm yourself with knowledge, set clear objectives, play up your point of difference and go for it. That’s the best approach for all of you, from new graduate to seasoned player.