Design set to gain profile through new wave plans

One of the pleasures of being a design commentator is charting the directions some of the industry’s more high-profile individuals are taking as the consultancy world turns on its head.

The exploits of John and Frances Sorrell post-Interbrand, for example, are well known. Their efforts to bring design to the grassroots of the public sector in schools and health are bearing fruit, hopefully also changing ‘official’ attitudes to design.

John Sorrell’s plans for a Kyoto-style World Design Congress within September’s London Design Festival have yet to convince many in the industry. Despite the international support Sorrell claims, the UK community has yet to be wowed by the concept with its all-too-familiar speaker line-up. Shades of British Design & Art Direction’s over-hyped SuperHumanism event of 2001? We hope not and wish Sorrell, festival director Ben Evans and their team well as they kick-start the congress.

Wally Olins has meanwhile been working in the public sector through his Madrid-based consultancy Saffron and former Enterprise IG managing creative director Franco Bonadio has developed the ethical stance he took at C21 by taking on the design headship at The Body Shop.

Now there are two new examples to add to the list of folk aiming to put something back into the world. The decision by Springpoint parent Interpublic Group to align it with stablemate FutureBrand led to the departure of its founders, Mark Pearce and Fiona Gilmore. Now Pearce has re-emerged with plans to help the gay community to promote itself in a positive light, while Gilmore has set up Acanchi, a two-pronged branding consultancy that dares to be different.

Acanchi Consulting creates brand strategies, but it doesn’t offer design itself, instead identifying the best design group for the client. Acanchi Experience, meanwhile, provides a catalyst to allow people within the client company to ‘come to life’. This is achieved through involving them in sessions focused on music, poetry or Tai Chi, say, to enhance the lives of the individuals involved.

So while the Sorrells and Olins make creative thinking accessible to more people and Gilmore addresses work/life balance issues, what’s in it for the design community at large? Apart from Acanchi Consulting’s potential to get designers work – not unlike Circus – such initiatives raise the profile of design. They also help to boost UK design’s global leadership position.

Whether you’re working for a two-person group in Blackburn or Borough, a middling group in Leicester or London or a big global player, the reputation will rub off – and ventures might even inspire others to follow suit.

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