A roundup of industry expertise, exclusive resources, business support and tools for your design business.
Read more >>
Warren has been working within the emergent digital disciplines of design for over 20 years and is the Founder of ELSE, a London-based experience design consultancy that helps business leaders accelerate product and service innovation.
During his career, Warren has worked in client-side and agency environments such as Yell, Universal Music, LBi and PA Consulting before founding ELSE in 2010.
As the principal at ELSE, Warren is responsible for setting business strategy, defining culture and maintains a healthy hands-on approach in client work. ELSE has a progressive culture, having operated a 4-day work week and remote working practices for a number of years.
Says DBA CEO Deborah Dawton: “There are sizeable challenges ahead for the design industry. The after-effects of Brexit and the pandemic on the economy, on our businesses and the way we work are still resonating. We are yet to know the full scale of impact on the design industry, but there is no doubt we’ll need to adapt. I’m delighted to welcome Warren Hutchinson to the role of Chair of the DBA Board; his experience in successfully driving transformational change within his clients’ businesses and also through his own business ELSE will be of great value in galvanising the DBA membership to rise to these challenges, creating opportunities for our community to thrive.”
“It’s best to be an active DBA member. Join in. Find those collaborators and partners. Because it is what raises us all up to run better design businesses.” Watch the video here.
At the AGM on Thursday 28 April 2022, we also welcomed three new Directors to the DBA Board. TDC PR Founder & Managing Director, Tim Duncan, A Better View Strategic Consulting Founder & President, John Gleason and HMA Managing Director, Nicola Tiffany.
Rufus Leonard Chief Operating Officer, Will Rowe and Diageo Global Design Director, Jeremy Lindley were also re-elected to the Board. As our previous Chair, our particular thanks and appreciation goes to Jeremy for his commitment to, and support of the DBA.
Further details about the DBA Board and the Directors can be found here.
Created in collaboration with Red Setter, and presented by its Founder & Managing Partner, Claire Blyth, this new podcast lifts the curtain on some of the design sector’s most respected and interesting leaders, strategists and designers.
“I’ve always loved the diversity of the design sector,” says Blyth. “There are so many different ways into it. There are so many different careers to be found in it. And it’s packed full of people with fascinating stories to tell. That’s what I want to shine a light onto with this podcast.”
In the first ten episodes, listeners will hear the founder of the world’s largest independent branding firm tell the story of how graffiti first sparked his love of typography. Another explores the links between branding and religion. And the head of global brand experience at a leading consumer goods corporate talks about how design gives him a glimpse into the future.
“Whether you’re looking for your first break in the industry, or you’re looking for your latest inspiration, I think these conversations have something to offer everyone”, says Blyth.
C D-X | Unsplash
Design Community Hub / Red Setter
Developing younger talent within the business is concerning many of you.
The hybrid working model is making it difficult for more inexperienced team members to pick up the important bits of experience they gain from working in close proximity to their colleagues. The role of senior creatives may be changing to ensure more time can be spent with juniors helping them develop the skills they need to progress.
Recruiting top talent is another issue. It’s coming at a price.
Agencies who are recruiting are finding it incredibly difficult to match the demands of sought-after talent. Some DBA members are reporting that it is costing them 25% more to replace certain types of staff.
Inflation and the rising cost of living is also feeding demand for staff pay-rises.
Through recent years of low-inflation it has been common practice for agencies to give staff pay increases every year, generally raising them a couple of percent. Even during the pandemic, we saw small increases at the more junior end of the scale.
The problem is that lots of agencies have not followed suit with fee increases every year. So, my first recommendation is a small increase every year regardless of the situation. Your clients are much more likely to accept two consecutive years of 2.5% increases rather than a 5% increase after a fallow year.
If your costs are increasing, your fees should be increasing. But the aim is a balance. Keeping an eye on the ratio between the salary of a specific role and the charge out rate is important to make sure it does not fall out of kilter. Some roles can be charged out at a higher ratio than others.
Bear in mind this advice from DBA Expert Sim Thirunesan: “If you are considering increasing your charge out rates as a result of increasing base costs, be aware that an increase in rates won’t necessarily translate to an increase in profits and healthy margins.” Sim recommends reviewing your pricing strategies and positioning, alongside carrying out benchmarking exercises.
When it comes to keeping staff happy, motivated, and effective it’s important to remember that other factors can also be considered.
Improving the overall employment package, not just the salary, is one alternative. What are your added benefits? We are seeing an increase in agencies experimenting with 4-day weeks (or one Friday a month off), early Friday finishes during the summer etc. No doubt we will see some interesting trends emerging around benefits in this year’s DBA Annual Survey Report when the findings are published in the Autumn.
As Sim says, “There is a lot more which can be considered and included beyond financial incentivisation. The first step is to understand what the motivators and hygiene factors of your employees and the prospective candidates are? Ask yourself – why would someone want to work here?”
Segmented by geography and size of agency, and covering fees, salaries, utilisation, income, recovery rates and more, the DBA Annual Survey Report can help you interrogate your ratios and benchmark your financial performance. So, my other recommendation is to participate in the Survey in order to utilise all the data. With the current pressures on design businesses, the Report’s findings are likely to be more valuable than ever to help you maintain your competitiveness in the market.
The 2022 Survey is currently open for completion until Monday 13 June.
By participating in the survey, you gain access to the full set of results (both through a pdf report and online dynamic data tables) in the 2022 Annual Survey Report, released in October. Full access to this data is only available to survey participants.
DBA members have recently received details on how to participate. If you have any questions, please get in touch: email@example.com
If you are not yet a DBA member, find out about the many benefits of DBA membership and join to gain access to the Annual Survey Report.
Balance the pressures your design business may be facing: read DBA Expert Sim Thirunesan’s article The Balancing Act.
Sue Shaw delivers training on this topic in a workshop called Managing People. Find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
At a recent Members’ Forum we discussed challenges and recommendations around recruiting, developing and retaining staff: read up on the conversation highlights.
Members – post your vacancies on our jobs board for free, and receive a complimentary shout-out on the DBA’s social channels. More info
Robert Anasch | Unsplash
Karl Abuid | Unsplash
Our Members’ Forum takes place on the first Monday of each month, at 4 – 5pm. If you would like to attend, get in touch here.
Our next members forum will be taking place on Monday 6 June.
1. The Design Business Association (DBA) stance is clear – we recommend that agencies do not free pitch. It devalues what you are selling. Don’t do it. Just say ‘no’.
2. Do not lambast the client. Either they are doing it because they do not know any other way (in which case educate them) or they are doing because they think it is a fast track way to choose an agency (in which case educate them).
3. A request to free pitch is an opportunity to start a conversation with a client. If they are interested in learning how to make a better informed decision great. If not, walk away. Their chances of getting a great agency are slim. If you work with them the chances of them being a good client are slim.
4. Do not use the argument about how free pitching is bad for the design sector (although it obviously is). Why should they care? It will not change their minds at all.
5. DO use the argument about how the client cannot find the best match for their business and their needs through a free pitch.
6. Explain the short comings of making a decision based on work created through guesswork with a lack of insight by agencies who either had free studio time (designers twiddling their thumbs) or who took designers off paid work to do it. Either way, as a client, would they want to work with agencies like that?
7. But most of all, choose not to free pitch because you have some self respect. You sell creativity for a living – what have you got to sell if you give it away for free before you even win the work?
Visit the resources section of our website for best practice guides for clients on how to buy design, plus templates, example responses, and case-studies on refusing free pitch requests.
I hope this hasn’t opened the flood gates and I get loads of messages pointing fingers at other agencies or complaining about certain clients. As an agency you can only impact what you are in control of. Concentrate on how you operate and leave the rest to themselves.