Design industry poised at ‘a threshold moment’

The tide is turning for design as it starts to gain more credence with clients vis-à-vis advertising as a way of not just promoting, but of creating businesses and products. We hear of clients, particularly in fmcg, making design groups brand guardians and even diverting advertising budgets towards design. It is no longer just about designing a single pack, but about creating a vision for the brand.

Within the creative industries this shift will be helped by Simon Waterfall’s stance as he takes on the D&AD presidency (see Profile, page 13). Despite claims otherwise, D&AD is still seen in design as an advertising body. As a digital designer, Waterfall straddles both disciplines, but his industrial design background and belief in interactivity and the sharing of knowledge should give design the edge.

Meanwhile, on an international level, Loewy Group’s acquisition of Seymour Powell is set to impact on the structure of the industry (see News, page 3). Both parties talk of ‘completing the circle’, reuniting the name of seminal US designer Raymond Loewy with product design. But in doing so, Loewy chief executive Charlie Hoult has created a model for creative supergroups that doesn’t have advertising at its heart or the stock market as a backer.

By adding Seymour Powell to a line-up already including branding star Williams Murray Hamm, public sector design specialist The Team and digital group Bite, Hoult has opted for design excellence. And with Seymour Powell in the business of innovation as much as product design – largely through its Seymour Powell Foresight research and strategy team and consultancy roles held by founders Richard Seymour and Dick Powell at Unilever and Samsung respectively – Loewy gains great influence on the future.

The upturn in design’s finances we detected in our 2007 Top 100 survey was just a start. Moves like these not only promise to maintain that success, but to put design on a positive new footing. As Seymour says, ‘It’s a threshold moment.’

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