Listening to Minale

Outspoken designer Marcello Minale offers the latest edition of his book, and his views don’t seem to have mellowed with age, says Matthew Valentine

For Marcello Minale’s book, How to Keep Running a Successful Design Company, to reach its third edition suggests that the joint founder of Minale Tattersfield Design Strategy has developed as much expertise in publishing as he has in the design industry. It also suggests that most design consultancies in the UK must have a copy tucked away somewhere.

The latest edition has new sections giving advice on moving a consultancy into the next millennium, and features updates on work carried out by the group. As it has been in operation for more than 30 years, there is a lot to show. More basic advice – on how to gain the right experience, start a business, maintain an image, find and keep clients, and keep the bank happy – is included too. There is also a repeat of Minale’s convincing financial argument against free-pitching for work.

Minale writes with authority on his subjects, as might be expected. He also shows wit and realism. He notes, for example, that Minale Tattersfield’s famous “scribble” logo is not just memorable, “it reproduces on the fax like a dream”. Faxes from younger design consultancies frequently arrive at Design Week’s offices with identities, and even addresses, which are actually invisible when faxed. They would be well advised to buy Minale’s book while the company credit card still works.

The retirement of the consultancy’s co-founder, Brian Tattersfield, seems to have made a big impression on Minale, who admits that finding a replacement is no easy task. He concedes that his choice of partners hasn’t always been wise, with tie-ups such as Minale Tattersfield & Acton ending badly, and an alliance with an unnamed multimedia partner lasting for less time than an average conversation. And throughout the book Minale acknowledges that although experienced in business, he is still on a steep learning curve.

Minale also takes the opportunity to crow about the perceived U-turn carried out by British Airways over its multinational tailfins. Always an opponent of the concept, Minale wrote letters to almost every newspaper and interested magazine in the UK stating just what he thought was wrong with it. Most of them published his opinions, starting long-running letters page debates. Extracts lasting a full five pages are run at the end of the book, to back Minale’s claim that BA is a “visual vandal”.

The Millennium Dome comes in for criticism, too. The Dome’s former creative head, Stephen Bayley, went up in Minale’s estimation when he resigned saying the Greenwich extravaganza would be “crap”. Minale seems to agree wholeheartedly.

But the worst of the visual vandals belong to the telecommunications sector, claims Minale. Of course, Minale Tattersfield isn’t completely innocent of vandalism itself. Either through honesty, or perhaps the fear of being caught out, Minale admits that the group created an identity for a Czech telecommunications group, Paegas. “We too are not completely guilt-free,” he writes.

How to Keep Running a Successful Design Company is published by Booth-Clibborn Editions priced £16.99

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