A roundup of industry expertise, exclusive resources, business support and tools for your design business.
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What makes a design business any different from the thousands of agencies out there? Does this sound familiar…
“We are a multi-faceted creative agency that love what we do for both small and large clients across all sectors”.
This is how 80% of the design sector describes itself. Saying you are great at what you do, or even that you love doing it, should not even be considered. Do to yourselves what you excel at doing for your clients – create a point of difference to drive customer choice.
We’ll be exploring positioning at a breakfast event for DBA members on 2 April. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest to attend and be the first to hear when bookings open.
Leadership is not always easy. But strong leadership will help your team to grow professionally, and your business to grow in stature. The profitability of an entrepreneurial business can be directly linked to the self-esteem of the owner. Explore ways to grow your confidence. If you know you can deliver, you know your value. If you know your value, you can stand your ground in negotiations.
Benchmark your financial performance with those of your peers and keep a close eye on the profitability of your engagements. This will help you to make better informed and more timely decisions to protect the interests of your business, like in the instance of a DBA member I was chatting to recently. They ended the relationship with their largest client (30% of their income) because the profit margin was so low. That brave decision freed up the agency to find several smaller clients with projects that were far more profitable. Profits jumped from 17% to 35% within the year.
Look further afield for new business. The UK is seen as the home of the best creative talent in the world. We have also traditionally been seen as expensive, but exchange rates are in our favour – suddenly the world can afford British design. Put your business in the shop window.
The DBA is working with the Department for International Trade on a trade mission to Hong Kong at the end of 2019, as the UK is the official partner country for the Business of Design Week Hong Kong 2019. If you are interested in growing your client base in Hong Kong and South East China email me to register your interest.
The DBA exists to represent you and support your business. If you need a critical friend give me a call on 020 7251 9229. I am always happy to talk through any business issues you are experiencing and help advise on further resources and support.
Robert-Zunikoffon on Unsplash
For over three decades you’ve led innovation teams developing human centred solutions for the modern world. How has perception of the value of investing in design changed in that time?
I’m glad to say the value placed on design has changed enormously across those decades. When I started as a product designer we had to work hard to convince companies of the value of design and allow time to do it well. When I moved into the digital world, it became clear that issues such as usability had a direct bearing on revenue and screens started being designed to attract new customers and keep them.
Now, living in a post Apple and Google world, the expectation of design quality is high and businesses understand that design helps them compete and succeed. I’m happy to find the door so often open to design, rather than having to force my way in, though in an agile world companies value speed as much as design quality and try and cut corners, to their eventual regret.
How pivotal do you believe design will be to the businesses and services of the future?
Design has become an essential part of business, with service and design thinking methods reaching across every aspect of the customer and employee experience, culture, systems and processes. With so many new and disruptive businesses being created, the blank piece of paper for these upstart start-ups is setting the bar higher and higher. You just have to look at how the new digital banks are using design to produce innovative services that work as we always wanted them to. The conversation increasingly starts with design and that means design will be pivotal to new ideas and services – this is not a fad.
Why are the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards important?
I’ve always loved the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards because they show the impact of design in an unarguable and measurable way. They speak to the heart of organisations and show that whatever your objective is, design can transform the results you are reaching for.
What are you most looking forward to in your role as Chairman of the Design Effectiveness Awards judging panel?
The quality of the panels is very high and I am looking forward to the insight, experience and rigour that the judges will bring to the process – which is incredibly thorough and superbly organised by the DBA team.
What’s particularly struck you when reading the submissions?
This year the impact and uncertainty of markets and overall business climate cannot be ignored. The entries show how design has allowed brands and products to succeed in spite of difficult circumstances – which makes the achievements even more impressive. Design can clearly be seen as the main component of some amazing success, and it’s fantastic to see entries exploring how high aspirations and objectives have been exceeded through strategic use of design. I think this will be an impressive year. I can’t wait.
Attendees British Airways, Turkish Airlines, China Southern and more heard about the “great British success story” that is the UK’s might in the airline interior industries, with the Minister revealing the sheer reach of the work being done by UK businesses.
• UK creatives invented airline flatbeds
• 10,000 aircraft receive lighting from British lighting design companies
• 1/3 of all airline seats in the world are made in Northern Ireland
• Scottish leather can be found in the aircraft from 160 airlines
The reception brought together MPs, policy makers, airline industry representatives and industrial and product design industry guests to stimulate collaboration and future export opportunities for UK businesses. Guests were encouraged to explore support and exchange information in export financing, certification, R&D and supply chain management and to meet design agencies that deliver world-leading work for their clients.
UK Exports have grown from 20% to 30% of GDP, and with a view to furthering that growth the Minister expressed his department’s passion in helping “British companies with the capability, capacity and product offering to export.”
Matt Round, Chief Creative Officer at industry-leading DBA member agency Tangerine, delivered the evening’s keynote address where he spoke of design’s capacity to “create truly outstanding experiences for people to fall in love with.”
In his address, Matt reinforced the influence of the UK’s small but high achieving airline interiors and design industry, a “pool of creative talent in the UK is fuelling commercial success for airlines, manufacturers and supply chain around the globe.”
He highlighted the new business opportunities that collaboration with DIT has generated for Tangerine. From being featured as Export Advocates in the department’s global “GREAT” campaign to joining DIT’s first trade mission to the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Tangerine has been able to explore new markets, make new connections and generate long-term and profitable client business.
The DBA’s latest Annual Survey Report highlighted that on average for member agencies, 24% of fee income is from overseas clients. Many DBA members are successfully selling their design services abroad and with the current political and economic turbulence in the UK, the opportunity to increase this activity should be exploited.
The UK is seen as the home of the best creative talent in the world. We have also traditionally been seen as expensive, but exchange rates are in our favour – suddenly the world can afford British design.
The DBA is working closely with DIT to identify opportunities for growth amongst the membership. Through our work over the coming years, we will be supporting you to expand your reach internationally into new markets and for those of you who are yet to embark on overseas trade, helping you prepare your business to successfully export.
We’re currently working with DIT on a trade mission to Hong Kong at the end of 2019, as the UK is the official partner country for the Business of Design Week Hong Kong 2019. If you are interested in growing your client base in Hong Kong and South East China register your interest by emailing the DBA’s Head of Services, Adam Fennelow at email@example.com
“This year we’ve had a strong focus on growth and maturity. The agency is 10 years old this year but, in some respects, we still feel like a start-up. As an agency with its HQ in the North East, we joined the DBA to feel connected to the UK design community and help drive our design effectiveness agenda. I joined the mentoring scheme in January 2018 and today is my last session on what’s been an amazing programme.
I’ve been super lucky to have had Debbie Longbottom (Group Finance Director at Elmwood) as my mentor for 12 months. It’s really helped to share our growth challenges and shape some major changes we’ve made in the business. This session is all about reviewing the progress to date and planning the next steps of the journey as we look at our strategy for the next three years.
It’s also about celebrating what we’ve achieved so far. So often in a small growing agency, it’s easy to beat yourself up about the day to day challenges and any derailments of the ‘grand plan’. Sessions like this really help to give some context and reinforce that we’re doing alright – it also gives us that timely kick to crack on and keep driving forward.
To finish the day, I’m with the client services team dialling into a board meeting to present a client’s new brand. It’s the big reveal of an idea we’ve been working on for months and the positive reaction is an amazing end to the week. The client loves the concept and can see how the last few months of the BetterBrandBuilder™ process has led to the final result. Next steps are to plan roll-out.
With a weekend full of family time, an exhilarating ‘Boro performance (always the optimist) and our regular poker game in the local to look forward to, the world looks pretty good to me.”
Estee Janssens | Unsplash