2015 was a year in which the economy started to recover, and the creative industries started to see the benefits. But how did it feel at the coalface of agency design?
We asked some of the UK's top studios for their perspectives on the year, and pick out some of the key trends they identified...
01. The return of confidence
Greg Quinton: The Partners: The industry is the healthiest it's been for a good few years. Brands can only tread water for a limited time (without going under). This year has seen brands start to kick-start their offers, innovate their products and communicate them. Confidence is slowly returning. Amen!
Simon Manchipp, SomeOne: We've never been busier. There seems to be no slow down in the race to launch new products, organisations and services – and even less time to pause when it comes to keeping brands competitive – and as long as that continues, London seems to be in the best city in the world to create and deploy progressive, effective and useful commercial creativity.
Matt Rice, Sennep: Things seem to be flying at the moment, especially here in London. We hear that the creative industries are outperforming the UK economy as a whole. Onwards and upwards!
02. A shift in attitudes towards design
Tom Hingston, Hingston Studio: The UK design industry is incredibly healthy at the moment. There is a noticeable shift that has happened over the last 10 years where design has a greater respect and greater value than ever before and I think this is reflected in our cultural landscape – exhibitions, galleries, architecture, film, theatre, festivals and music are all contributing factors to London and the UK being recognised as a thriving, global hub for creativity.
Ben Christie, Magpie: I think it's a great time for our industry. Following the incredible success of Apple, a switch has been flicked. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the commercial value of creative thinking at not just brand, but board level. Steve Jobs really did us all a huge favour there.
Chris Moody, Wolff Olins: We're seeing real energy and growth around us and people producing exciting work; it feels like the dip of the last few years is behind everyone. In particular the evolution of design thinking as a concept that is influencing all sorts of businesses from the top-down signifies a really important shift for the industry around.
Huw Morgan, Graphic Thought Facility: We recognise design more than ever, turning the people who create design into celebrities while the parents at my children's school raise the money to pay for art classes that have been cut from a curriculum that favours maths and science. This seems like a mixed message, it doesn't feel like future-proofing.
Mat Heinl, Moving Brands: From a general perspective, there's a lot more design and designers in the world than there were ten years ago, UK is no exception. From my international work I find UK has extremely sophisticated design services but that in other places, client businesses have embraced the value of branding and design as core to their business success more wholeheartedly.
03. Increased competitiveness
Paul Stafford, DesignStudio: In terms of business, it's very competitive. Lots of great agencies competing for the same work. We're often pitching against the same agencies, all fighting it out for the same projects. We love it this way, it means so much more, you need to push all of the time.
Gabor Schreier, Saffron: The UK design industry is extremely competitive. I think there are over 1000 established branding firms in London. Add to that the plethora of start-ups, spin-offs and freelancers, and that's a saturated market. However there is always a healthy market for agencies and individuals that constantly deliver great work and specialise in particular disciplines and sectors, and therefore add real value to clients.
04. Disproportionate budgets
Tommy Taylor, Alphabetical: Creatively, the UK design industry is going from strength to strength. Every month an exciting new start-up emerges and these provide inspiration and opportunity to the fantastic creatives which are just breaking out of uni.
Unfortunately budgets are frequently disproportionate to the effort design companies like ours put in - so there is still a little way to go before I would be comfortable with describing the UK design scene as entirely 'healthy'.
05. An eroding hierarchy
Vera-Maria Glahn, Field: "I think we're in the middle of a long process of overcoming the traditional, hierarchical model of agencies feeding ideas down a pipeline of subcontracted agencies – losing a lot grit and money along the way.
"The most exciting work is done by small and independent design studios and individuals talking directly to brands, for example ManvsMachine, Marshmallow Laser Feast. They're much better at convincing a client of an outstanding idea – and standing out is what they want to after all."
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