In Piers Schmidt’s article (Design Business, DW 8 November) the message I took was simply that the Big Five are taking away choice, and that’s why he felt it important to find another way – and he may have a point.
Charles Trevail states that the enemy is not within and he may be right too (Letters, DW 22 November). But that shouldn’t stop us asking where we’re heading.
Having worked in both large publicly owned groups (Fitch, Landor Associates and Enterprise IG) and now with a small independent group, I have experienced first-hand the difference between the two worlds of design – large and small. The difference is not in scale, but in business models.
I believe there are two types of design business, whether they be large, small, publicly owned or not. They are either processor creatively driven. Today’s Big Five publicly owned consultancies are run mainly by marketing people and have chosen the process-driven model. Process drives the output and the output is generally a broad strategy with little or no delivery. Marketers get their kicks in the boardroom. Clients value the work, hence the spectacular growth in recent years.
Smaller groups tend to prefer the creatively driven model. The work tends to be more delivery focussed as this is where designers get their kicks and it’s where the design industry gives out its awards. Growth is not as fast, but they survive. So they too must be doing something of value too.
Fitch and Michael Peters Group in the early 1990s were not just publicly owned, but creatively driven – and for a time made large profits and won many awards for their efforts by creating both strategy and delivery. Is what Schmidt rallies against, to do with process-driven design businesses taking over? And is it limiting creativity? Maybe.
Creative strategy and creative delivery, however attractive logically, are difficult bedfellows as someone has to lead – and currently it’s the marketing people selling and having their way.
Could there be another way? We
ll, Rodney Fitch and Michael Peters proved you could in the past. But interestingly each is now running an independent business their way and not running any of the Big Five of today.
How different would these consultancies be if they were being run by Fitch and Peters? And would the work be different? Very different, I suspect, because the business model that consultancies choose reflects their leadership.