A free-range life leads to free-range thinking, too

Following up your feature on Nesta’s Rural Innovation report (News in Depth, DW 10 January), I have an admission to make – I work in a barn.

That’s not meant to be an uncomplimentary observation on the habits of my work colleagues – I do, literally, work in a barn.

I am part of a small design team based in the Cambridgeshire countryside. It’s an idyllic place to work, but all of us here face – as do most small ‘out of site [sic], out of mind’ consultancies – a continuous battle against the insecurities of prospective clients.

It seems that rural groups have a harder time getting recognised as a viable source of good design services, when pitched against urban competitors. Clients awarding work and roster places see us as a risky proposition and often overlook us.

However, those clients need to start recognising that countryside-based design groups have a lot more to offer than they think. The notion that a small consultancy, located outside of the traditional catchment area, is less sophisticated or up to date than urban counterparts is now far from true.

We have all the skills of our urban rivals and we have access to the same technology. Also, small consultancies are agile. We can respond just as quickly, if not more quickly (fewer people means less chance of not being able to get hold of somebody), to our clients’ needs. Above all, the work matters to us. When we get briefs from a big client, it generates a buzz and excitement in the team, which stimulates us creatively and benefits the client.

Living and working in the country rubs off on us. We are ‘free-range’ designers. Free from the constraints of bigger consultancies. Without the creative battery-farming of the city, we can let our ideas flourish organically and with this freedom we can offer new perspectives on projects. All that remains is for large clients to take a chance.

But, maybe, they’re just too chicken?

Mark Robinson, Lead creative, Tag Brand, by e-mail

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  • Dan Stoneham November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I totally agree with Mark Robinson’s free range design farming ethic.

    Surely the designer above all above all barnyard beasts has to benefit from the fresh air and inspiring contryside views. Coupled with the lack of hours of daily commuting time, this has to be a winning combination.

    Dan Stoneham

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