The game plan for 2005

After a cautious 2004, which saw the design industry collectively hold its breath, designers and consultancy bosses seem genuinely bullish about their prospects for the coming year. As advertising revenues slowly improve across the board and design consul

THE INTERACTIVE VIEW Daljit Singh – Consultancy director, Digit

2005 will be the year that the interactive digital medium will enter the mainstream consciousness of brand owners and business people. The already savvy consumer can only benefit. Budget share for this fast-maturing channel is growing and this will drive a change of emphasis at consultancies and agencies of all denominations. To stay successful (maybe even to stay in business) design groups will have to skill up, wise up and work even harder to re-sell the value of digital channels, which have been devalued in the past few years by bland websites, irritating banner ads that crawl all over your screen, pop-up hell and the heartburn we feel from the culmination of all that spam we consume in the week. Standards have to rise.

Brands need to intrigue and delight end consumers, and with broadband finally becoming pervasive the brand winners will be those that champion compelling on-line experiences that are then faithfully reflected at the point-of- purchase. Imagine a scenario where real people go into real stores and triumphantly realise that they can find out more than the pre-programmed sales folk you encounter in many of today’s high street ‘formats’ – just by seeing, feeling, researching and experiencing their desires on-line first…

Design will remain a potent enabler of these improved experiences, driven along by smart designers, smart clients and a more discerning consumer who is willing to pay for style over function. Does anyone really want an mp3 player? Or do they want an iPod? – answers on a postcard…

With integration will come a blurring of the way we expect to be able to handle, process and share information. Cameras, watches, memory sticks and mp3s will soon be able to treat data, images, sounds and even memories as fully interchangeable snippets of life, eager to be shared so long as you have a slot to connect to or Bluetooth. The on-line world is finally unleashed and we can take what we need with us wherever we go – I’m off to the pub!

THE PRODUCT VIEWPaul Priestman – Founder, Priestman Goode

We’re designing in a changing time – furniture is being designed by architects, bottles by furniture designers, phones by fashion designers. All the boundaries between disciplines are blurring and I think it presents some very exciting design challenges for both designers and their clients.

Clients need to focus on design thinking rather than seeking solutions from a single design discipline – this broader approach can throw up some unexpected and innovative ideas.

In industry terms, we need to make sure that we’re training people to develop skills that are flexible, but grounded in solid design thinking. Priestman Goode has moved from designing products, to moving environments, to fixed environments – the group is constantly evolving and that’s what I want to make sure we keep doing in 2005.

THE BUSINESS VIEWAmanda Merron – Partner, Willott Kingston Smith

2004 was a mixed year with, at best, an erratic improvement in the design world. Some design businesses did brilliantly and others are still finding it pretty tough. Holding out for the situation to improve next year isn’t a good plan. Higher interest rates have slowed the housing market, but not consumer spending… yet. With credit card borrowing at record levels that seems likely to change. So my prediction for next year is that the fittest will flourish and the flabby will struggle.

What do successful design businesses have on their side? They have focus and a very clear offer to tightly defined target markets. All of which makes it easy for clients to buy and slightly easier to charge the right price.

So this January I think we should be taking time out to plan; to focus the business offering, identify profitable clients and sectors, work out what they buy, assess the skills needed to deliver whatever that is and work out how to charge properly for it.

And finally, my friend Adrian’s two rules of business: rule one – always make a profit, and rule two – never forget the first rule.

THE BRANDING VIEWCharles Wrench – President EMEA, Landor Associates

New Year trendspotting has a tendency to be dramatic. But market trends rarely observe the progress of the calendar in quite the same way, so I am afraid my prognosis is ‘more similar than different’.

The big clients will go on getting bigger. This will ensure that the global networks have ample opportunity to thrive, providing they focus on delivering their network promise, as opposed to moaning about procurement. So I expect to see much activity at FutureBrand as their new leader, Jean-Louis Dumeu, throws everything into the task of aligning the group’s network.

At the same time, as these global client behemoths drive for world domination, the scope for challenger brands and courageous brand owners to find their own piece of highly differentiating ground will grow apace.

I expect to see some category-busting brilliance lightening the global murk.

At a macro level, as our world increasingly clogs with commercial messaging, I expect to see a transfer of marketing spend from mass media to the point of actual brand experience, both in terms of behavioural and environmental interventions.

For those with genuine network power, and/or courage at their core, and/or the capacity to make an impact on the point of consumer experience, 2005 should be a happy New Year.

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