Accountability is key for the industry in a tougher climate

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Whoever said ‘It’s not about the winning but about the taking part’ wasn’t thinking about design. Winning is a key motivator in the industry, be it a pitch or an award. Success is, after all, a ticket to doing what designers enjoy most – creating great work.

But, as we celebrate Design Week’s Benchmarks for the best in branding, it is worth reflecting on what that awards scheme means (see News in Depth, page 7). It is not just about notching up another win to add to your points for the Creative Survey. The judges are looking for consistency as well as creative excellence, so awards are hard-won, and earning a place in the Benchmarks book is an accolade in itself.

This year’s Benchmarks throw up three issues for design that will become even more important as the economy toughens up. They suggest a level of accountability; they respect the role of the client in creating great design, honouring stalwart champions in the Client of the Year category; and they acknowledge the importance of stakeholders.

Accountability isn’t writ as large in the Benchmarks as it is in, say, the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards, which call for proof that a project has enhanced the client’s bottom line. But it is implicit in the requirement that the branding works across three or more platforms – and the fact that most judges are on the client side.

Clients, meanwhile, are increasingly important in the mix and as an industry we need to cherish those who stick out their neck for creativity. Benchmarks Client of the Year Tate is one such organisation and should be congratulated for its constancy in buying in great design.

Finally, we have introduced the Stakeholder Communications category this year in response to market demand. If companies are to succeed in hard times they need to communicate clearly with their staff, investors and customers, and design is key to this.

Addressing these issues might not ward off all the horrors of recession, but it could help. Consultancies would do well to take note.



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