Developing new business models shows design can be creative in every way

Tough times are renowned for bringing the best out of creative people. There’s nothing like pressure – economic or otherwise – to provoke great work and new thinking. That is the general idea, though those who’ve been through the financial mill of late might not agree.

Tough times do, though, demand new ways of doing things and design is traditionally quick to respond. And that includes its business models as well as its creative output.

Take the examples we cite this week. On the one hand, screen branding designer Jeff Conrad has, with two colleagues, quit broadcast design giant Red Bee Media to set up The Council (see Profile, page 13). On the other hand, there are Ron Cregan’s scenario and Elmwood’s deal with Tin Horse which boosts its repertoire in structural packaging (see News, page 3).

The Elmwood deal is particularly pertinent to design at large. By taking a 25 per cent stake in Tin Horse, it gains expertise and association with an expert in the structural field – as does Tin Horse in branding – without committing to extra salaries and office costs.

It is not the first time this sort of arrangement has been made. Branding group Start Creative struck a deal with Manchester-based interiors specialist Judge Gill three years ago which has proved fruitful for projects from Moscow to the Middle East.

But it is potentially good for overall design quality when consultancies stick to their own areas of excellence and collaborate with other like-minded, butcomplementary groups.

The Elmwood saga also brings hope for those that have struggled through recession. Like other groups it has taken knocks, but it has fought back by rethinking its global management structure and through the kind of collaboration the Tin Horse deal embodies. It is one to keep watching, not just for its business performance, but for the business models it creates.

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