Gazumping process seeps into the design industry

If you were a charity, in the process of shortlisting several groups to enter a paid pitch to design your identity, would you welcome with open arms one of the most renowned design groups in the world, offering to do the project for free? Of course you would.

Interestingly, this very scenario has just happened. I had sent my details for inclusion in the shortlisting process for a charity’s identity project, when, lo and behold, I am told this design mega-group has offered to do the work for free.

I know what you are thinking, ‘I hope he’s not going where I think he’s going. He wouldn’t begrudge a worthwhile organisation, like a charity, the ability to put its money to better use and get a great design.’

No I’m not, I’m going in the other direction. What motivated a design giant such as this to make the offer in the first place?

In a design industry that is struggling, large and small groups alike are having to find ways of riding out this economic downturn. Streamlining the work force, focusing on core markets and pushing for new business at every opportunity, to name but a few. As a self-employed designer my decision to form a small design collective and turn it into a limited company meant I could compete with larger organisations for more varied work.

The reason for starting the collective was to try to combat clients’ scepticism of the self-employed designer. Having this tag meant that only certain work, of a specific size, would be given to you.

Certain ad agencies take on, for one year, a charity for little or no fee. But, having come in just as the pitch deadline was closing, it seems unlikely in this case. More likely with design work sparse, the consultancy saw the opportunity to get an interesting design project on the strength of its name alone. If it had become involved through the normal route its costs would probably have been restrictive.

Whether this ‘gazumping’ happens a lot, I don’t know. But I question the morality of the established group using its (great) name to get a (national) project for no money.

Ian Bayliss



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