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Having worked both on the consultancy and client side, former Dorothy Perkins creative director Nikki Hillier is setting up her own group, White Room Associates (DW 22 November). What are the main differences between working in a consultancy and being in-house?

‘It’s all about relationships. Maybe it’s the difference between indulging in numerous one-night-stands and sustaining a fulfilling long-term relationship. In-house design teams are active stakeholders, and as such are investing everything in their partnerships within the brand.’

Paul Porral, Head of global design, The Body Shop International

‘There is no difference, you are still a service within a retail organisation or without. On the plus side of consultancy life, you get more satisfaction working with a variety of clients and projects. The test is whether your skills transfer and if potential clients value your skills. On the optimistic side, start-ups usually do well in recessions.’

Paul King, Chairman, M&K Creative

‘It’s far better being a client; you’re in control and you know why you’re being apparently inconsistent, opaque or just plain weird. On the other hand, I’ve always tried to preserve some sense of being a consultant to the Science Museum; the necessity being to avoid the insularity and complacency that institutional life can encourage.’

Tim Molloy, Head of design, Science Museum

‘External consultants have the vision to see over the shoulder of businesses, the freedom to suggest real change, a broad reach of experience and are able to attract creative talent. Internal design resources can take a strategic role in a company, develop brand communication and delivery, understand all aspects of a business, and form relationships both internally and externally that enable great design to connect to people.’

Clive Grinyer, Director of design and innovation, Design Council

‘The in-house design resource rarely gets the credit or respect it deserves; often seen as “worker ants” trying to push boundaries, while not upsetting the status quo. Clients listen to external consultants, as it is perceived they bring a challenging, 360-degree perspective to problem solving. It’s no surprise design managers who are not fully appreciated may want to operate outside the confines of an organisation who put politics over professionalism. Probably the biggest difference is that external consultants are more able to say “No”.’

Colin Porter, Chairman, CorpBrand Identity

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