Our profile of DesignStudio shows how the consultancy was established by two designers, Paul Stafford and Ben Wright, who felt frustrated at how design and creative work was overlooked at big consultancies.
Five years after it was set up, DesignStudio has grown to a 40-strong independent consultancy with offices in London and San Francisco and last month unveiled its rebrand of Airbnb.
Stafford and Wright put the consultancy’s success down to its focus on designers over account directors or client services: ‘One of our founding principles was that design and designers were always in the project from start to finish.’
Providing a contrast to DesignStudio’s story is the interview with Jerry Hall, the non-designer managing director of DECIDE.
Hall, a former corporate tax planner, took on his role at DECIDE 20 years ago after advising on a management buyout. Since then he has steered them through two recessions and a rebrand to become a 42-strong business with offices in Newcastle and London.
Hall says his outsider’s perspective gives him an advantage as a design business leader: ‘It’s particularly challenging being a designer and leading a design business, because if you can do design, you will inevitably be sucked into it, at the expense of running the “business”.’
So which example to follow? Should your design business be led by designers, or could an outsider give a more objective view?
The model put forward by DesignStudio is a compelling one, based as it is on the value of design. But the consultancy founders admit that DesignStudio’s growth was at times ‘painful’ and that for the business to work they have to recruit the right people.
Non-designer Hall at DECIDE, however, seems to suggest that designers are by nature ill-placed to run businesses (although he does say that any professional background can prepare you to lead a business). But can this this really the case for a business that is, ultimately, selling design to clients?
So which is best? Can designers lead a successful consultancy based solely on design skills, or do thriving businesses need an outside perspective? I’d welcome your thoughts in our comments section.