Collaborate to cash in on the feelgood factor

Will 1997 be the year for design? That’s certainly the common view as optimism floods back and designers rediscover their characteristic bounce. People are moving around more, and talking faster – a sure sign that energies are renewed. Business isn’t yet booming in all sectors, but it’s picking up, and with recruitment again an issue for many design groups, confidence is back at last.

But before you resume a course of power breakfasts, heed Jeremy Myerson’s words about the dangers of “overheating”(feature, page 12). No one foresees a return to the excesses of the Eighties, but the lessons we learned the hard way in recession can just as quickly be unlearned in a moment of wild euphoria. It’s worth remembering, for example, that important though a consistent workload may be, there’s much more to running a successful business than winning more and more jobs.

A point made by David Jebb in Myerson’s piece is also worth further thought – the difference between design groups Jebb terms design providers (the sheep) and those he sees as genuine, problem-solving consultants (the goats). Jebb is not alone in believing that the future belongs to the nimble-minded goats and that the jobbing sheep will have a hard time of it. But this is too simplistic a view of what is still a very small industry.

Diversity is potentially one of design’s greatest strengths, if the various factions are prepared to learn from each other and pool resources when appropriate. This already happens between groups of different disciplines and between like-minded outfits working across national boundaries. Why, therefore, shouldn’t the more strategic groups link with smaller, craft-based concerns on particular projects? The latter often produce the best visual work, but haven’t the physical muscle or “consultancy” clout to win the bigger jobs. So let’s start the new year in the spirit of collaboration. It will boost design’s standing as an industry and is key to the entrepreneurialism that underpins creative business at its best.

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