Stay ahead of the game

Design isn’t stagnating, argues Bill Wallsgrove. It is simply adjusting to the holistic needs of demanding clients.

Both industries are going through a challenging period, forced by changing technology, new media channels, supply exceeding demand and real questions about the effectiveness of traditional commercial advertising.

The design industry is, as ever, adapting creatively and building new ways of working. I certainly don’t subscribe to FutureBrand chief executive Jean-Louis Dumeu’s observation that our industry is in decay (DW Top 100 survey). Jan Oldenburger, who runs Dutch ad agency Roorda, recently gave an inspired speech at the Pan-European Brand Design Association conference in Brussels about the need for design and advertising to integrate through the line and abandon old practices. I certainly subscribe to this view.

I have witnessed consultancies defining their propositions and specialising over the course of my career, working in both independent partnerships and ad agency-owned global networks.

My frustrating experience in a large corporate group left me with the belief that there is a better way to supply creative work for brands – deliver high- profile solutions. I wanted to work with brands across various disciplines. My experience in the UK is that the most talented designers are either running their own groups or are freelance consultants. We are one of many teams operating this way.

A networked alliance allows you to work with brands across all platforms, where consistent communication across media is essential. This model draws on the one used by the film industry – you bring the best people together for the lifetime of the project, then move on to the next brief.

More and more clients are seeing the value of working this way. More conservative businesses will probably always appreciate the security that comes with working with a large global network, but I believe this will change as the ad industry confronts the challenges ahead. You don’t need to share office space to work together effectively. Portable communication has resolved all of that. On a recent project, I directed website design from London, packaging artwork from Manchester and brochure photography from Newcastle, while sitting in Moscow.

Like many people in design I’ve diversified; I have interests in music and a public relations. The opportunities for sonic branding and the importance of effective communications strategy in our world is growing and is helping clients find more effective ways to deliver their brand message.

This business model is not limited to the UK. We operate in China and I have also set up a partnership with Moscow’s biggest brand consultancy.

Russia has proved to be the perfect market to work this way. The entrepreneurial owners of companies there have not emerged in a market where design and advertising are clearly defined. They see us as trusted advisors, providing highly innovative solutions for brands. It is simply more efficient and saves them time and money.

The design world has changed. It’s no longer about disciplines, it’s about communication.

Bill Wallsgrove is corporate brand director at Mildberry, creative consultant at Big Idea and brand director at Seamless

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