Industry experts predict steady recovery for 2011

Amanda Merron

This year will see a steady economic recovery, although there is to be a public-sector dip and training will be key to retaining staff, industry experts say.

Amanda Merron, partner at accountant Kingston Smith W1, says a ’continued steady recovery’ is likely through 2011, ’picking up towards the end of the year’.

Merron pinpoints Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Mexico as strong overseas markets where design can succeed this year. She adds that digital consultancies will continue to do well on the West Coast of the US and that online entertainment will be a powerful sector.

’Strategic design businesses and brand strategy will start to do better again,’ says Merron, who adds that ’interior designers and architects might find it a bit harder – those sectors won’t expand as well as the others’.

The digital sector will continue to expand, she adds, ’although being purely digital will not be as big an advantage’.

David Worthington, chairman of Lloyd Northover Group, agrees that digital will continue to do well, but says it is a complex sector that demands integrated solutions and is sometimes mistakenly seen as ’cost-effective and efficient’.

Consultancies connected to the public sector will struggle, Worthington says, but he does predict that if some public-sector clients are forced to develop their own revenue streams this could lead to further design briefs.

’Museums as well are being encouraged to engage in enterprise culture – so projects will be initiated to help them become more commercial through brands, services and products,’ says Worthington.

Singapore – a country that has recovered early from recession – has been Lloyd Northover’s most successful outpost abroad and Worthington expects this to continue. India and China are likely to be strong sources of revenue for the consultancy, he adds.

Worthington, who is also chairman of the UK Design Alliance and Creative & Cultural Skills, says a need for a ’better-skilled workforce’ will be shown to be at odds with changes in higher education this year, and that there must be new ways to undertake continued professional development in anticipation of this.

Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association, says training will continue to increase as staff retention becomes ’critical’. She says, ’Looking after employees will be important as competition for good people extends to not just salaries, but benefits packages too.’

Dawton also sees that 2011 could be a good year for regional consultancies. ’Quality creative can come from anywhere in the UK and those that leverage their out-of-London price advantage will continue to win out,’ she says.

Tips for 2011, from the DBA’s Deborah Dawton

  • As budgets become tighter at consultancies, consolidation among the trade professional associations will be a must if design is to claim its share of voice at national and international levels.
  • Businesses need to be able to react to market conditions quickly and decisively, as predicting what is going to happen gets harder.

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