So Digit is finally joining WPP (see News, page 3). It may seem that yet another independent is throwing in the towel and joining a global network, but Daljit Singh and his team have been there before, having only bought out of ownership by US company Meta Source some 18 months ago.
Whether the deal brings changes for Digit isn’t yet clear – it already works alongside several WPP consultancies. But though WPP boss Martin Sorrell is a keen player on the financial side, he has tended to give his design groups a relatively free hand, as long as agreed performance targets are met. He is also known to enjoy having creative ‘names’ such as Lambie-Nairn and The Partners in the WPP stable.
Under its previous owner the London group was able to flex its creative muscles, with non-commercial projects such as the award-winning Typographic Tree installation building its reputation. Whether such experimentation will still happen under the WPP deal remains to be seen, but Digit should have the clout to give it a shot.
Under the deal Digit will retain its identity within WPP. Like TV and on-screen identity giant Lambie-Nairn, it will hang on to its independence rather than be merged into one of the global network’s branding companies.
With other networks this might not have been the case. The then Icon Brandlab, formerly MetaDesign London and bought by Interpublic Group flagship consultancy FutureBrand in spring 2001, was, for example, stripped of its name and senior management and absorbed into FutureBrand.
With a global network behind it, Digit might also be able to champion the new role for digital work on a world stage. With mobile phone companies and retailers among those commissioning ground-breaking digital work, website design is set to play a bit part in the digital arena. Let us hope that Sorrell has the foresight to realise its true potential and allow Digit to spearhead its future development.
New Design Council chairman
It’s great news that Institute of Directors boss George Cox is to take the helm at the Design Council this autumn (see News, page 3).
Outgoing chairman Professor Sir Christopher Frayling has put the council on course for its next phase. The appointment of David Kester as chief executive last year and now Cox as chairman has brought new energy and direction for the Government-backed agency.
Cox, with his impressive reputation in business and political circles, can only help to build the council’s strength in those directions. His engineering background might even help to boost design in the mix.