This year's Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year was no David and Goliath battle. Only the giants of Scottish design were left throwing stones at each other. Fortunately, however, the only projectiles being hurled around at the Robert Horne Design Lunch, held at Edinburgh's Metro Restaurant two Fridays ago, were words of congratulations, commiserations and the odd bread roll here and there.
But, once all the slingshots had been fired there stood one true Goliath of Scottish design. After two months of research into Scotland's design industry, one consultancy was adjudged to be a colossus of corporate identity, a behemoth of annual reports, a leviathan of exhibitions and 3D environments, gargantuan in packaging and elephantine when it came to new media.
Aside: I would just like to say a quick thank you to Collins' Thesaurus for the last sentence.
Navy Blue left this year's design lunch with the prestigious hatstand trophy in tow after wrestling it away from last year's winners, Graphic Partners, which despite a challenging year also managed to hold on to third place in the overall rankings, narrowly behind this year's runner-up and the winner of two years ago 999 Design.
Navy Blue performed consistently well in all aspects of the research and again proved, as they did in 1999 when they last picked up the award, that despite tough times their ability to combine sound business practice with creative innovation can pay dividends. Speaking of the win, joint founder and managing director Douglas Alexander said: 'This has been a watershed year for us. We have seen our business mature and develop beyond our expectations and we're delighted for everyone associated with the company. I believe that it has been our strategic approach to each and every project that has been recognised both within the industry and, especially, by our clients.'
Add to this other awards in the last year, such as a Clio for Strathmore Papers, two Scottish Design Awards for ECA and also being appointed to create Scotland's bid document for the Euro 2008 football championships, and it hasn't been a bad year for the guys down in Leith.
Altogether 120 people gathered at the Metro Restaurant in Edinburgh, an impressive turnout despite the best efforts of the striking ScotRail drivers trying to derail the event, to see Navy Blue collect their just desserts.
The lunchtime event was kicked off by keynote speaker Carol Laugier, joint managing and creative partner of Identica, the London-based total branding specialist, which works on behalf of international clients such as Levi's, Mothercare, One2One, Sony, Universal Pictures and Vodafone.
Laugier spoke about the importance of branding in the modern age and gave her Top Ten Tips on branding.
As always, all design consultancies in Scotland are invited to enter the Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year. Each consultancy was contacted and asked to complete a questionnaire to get their financial details for the last twelve months, details of their own staff numbers and clients and also to gauge the opinions of the Scottish design sector as a whole.
The overall winner of the design review, in this case Navy Blue, is based upon how well the consultancy fared across three separate polls - Financial, Peer and Creative.
The financial details received were despatched to Jack McLaren at KPMG, who promptly pulled out his calculator and set about identifying the consultancy which has shown the highest level of growth over the last year. The other details were collated and enabled us to draw up the industry's Peer Poll, which looks at which consultancy the consultancies themselves feel has created some sterling work and has operated a good business during the last year.
Finally, the Creative Poll aims to monitor the high level of creativity amongst Scottish consultancies and award what our judging panel considered the consultancy that entered the most creative portfolio of work.
Every consultancy that supplied details was invited to submit a portfolio and 31 did just that. The judging panel was made up of highly respected designers from the North of England, including Ben Casey of The Chase, David Barraclough of CheethamBellJWT, Mark Bottomley of Origin and Carol Naylor, design director of McCann-Erickson Manchester. Our judges also picked out what they considered to be the single most creative piece of work from a Scottish consultancy during the judging session.
A number of special awards were also handed out, with the responses on the questionnaires pinpointing this year's winners in the regional categories, the One To Watch and the Design Managing Director of the Year.
And so to the results...
Everybody wants to be popular, it's just that some achieve popularity and others just become a pain in the backside as they pursue said popularity.
However, a pain in the backside is a charge that cannot be levelled at this year's Peer Poll winner, Graphic Partners.
One of the oldest kids on the block, the consultancy headed up by Graham Duffy and Ken Craig still commands the all round respect of the industry and rise from fourth in the table last year.
Supporters of Graphic Partners said of Duffy and Craig that they still run a well-controlled and well-managed ideas driven company, which has proven staying power despite challenging market conditions and which continues to produce refreshing contemporary design work.
Both Duffy and Craig have also been accused of being 'bloody nice guys', a charge which they are both very guilty of.
The last year has been a tricky one, with the consultancy they launched in Manchester being forced to close its doors. Also the recent loss of team leaders Paul Sudron and Graham Sturzaker, who have gone to launch the Scottish office of Elmwood and also the departure of creative director Jack Rodgers, will mean Graphic Partners may have a different look this time next year.
Runner-up this year was Overall Winner Navy Blue, still highly respected for the range, quantity and quality of its work. The management of the company was also praised for its vision, as was the consultancy's policy of making all its creatives shave their hair off!
Winners from two years ago, 999 Design came in third spot, still respected by their peers for the quality of client they work for, such as Orange, and also for their courage in expanding to London when many are shrinking back to the bare minimum.
In joint fourth came Creative Poll winners Teviot, Locofoco and BD-TANK. Teviot was praised for its emergence as a force to be reckoned with, Locofoco was deemed the 'designer's choice' for its clean, well-crafted and exciting design work, while last year's Peer Poll winner, BD-TANK (or TANK as it was then), was nominated again for its consistently high creative standards.
In the Financial Poll we used a number of criteria to analyse exactly how Scotland's consultancies are performing; these were design turnover, design fee income, year-on-year growth, turnover per member of design staff and turnover per client. There were some key messages from this research.
- 38 consultancies submitted their figures.
- 16 consultancies reflected turnover growth in excess of 20 per cent.
- 12 consultancies experienced turnover decrease.
- 9 consultancies' turnovers per client were in excess of £60,000 compared with only four last year. This reflects the growth in the value of assignments for clients and can only be good news for the industry.
In terms of individual performance, several headlines stood out from the research:
- The turnovers ranged from £139,000 to £6.8m, with an average being £1.3m.
- 14 consultancies experienced turnovers of more than £1m. The top two companies in terms of turnover were Navy Blue and Tayburn, raking in in excess of £5m and £6m respectively.
- 243 design staff were employed by those returning the survey, with the average number being six.
- Looking at how much revenue was generated for each designer, this ranged from £31,000 to £450,000. The average overall was £175,000. However, the top ten financial performers averaged £247,000.
In summary, 2001 was another year that confirms the marketplace remains extremely fragmented with few barriers to entry, in view of the large number of new entrants. The market is very competitive, reinforcing the need for companies to focus not only on growth, but on turnover per qualified designer and client, ensuring margins are maintained or improved and that the all-important cash flow is strong.
Design Managing Director of the Year
This accolade looks to award the individual who continues to operate a top-notch design operation in terms of profit-making, the production of high-quality creative and the retention of a client list which would be the envy of consultancy heads across the land. It may come as little surprise that the winner of this award is also the man who heads up Scotland's most financially successful consultancy of the last year, and that is Erick Davidson of Tayburn.
To say that Erick's clients' chips are blue would be an understatement; you couldn't get any bluer than Revlon International, Baileys, Scottish & Southern Energy, Wedgwood, Scottish Courage, Princess Food Group, Givenchy, Scottish & Newcastle, Hilton, ScottishPower, and the list goes on. But, clearly Erick doesn't do everything at Tayburn himself, just most things, but the key to being a good managing director is to surround yourself with more than able generals and that is exactly what Erick has done and why he commands such respect from Scotland's creative community.
One To Watch
It kind of feels like we've been watching the winners of our One To Watch category for some years now and that's because we have been watching them for some years, maybe more years than Graham Scott, Ian McIlroy and David Coates of Nevis would care to admit to. But, nonetheless, the industry has decided that it will be keeping an even closer eye to see how their new design consultancy, Nevis, will fare over the coming year.
This too was a unanimous vote, primarily because most of the design industry is intrigued to see whether three of Scotland's most established design figures can match or even exceed their past achievements at Tayburn McIlroy Coates, EH6 and NE6.
Hookson, the breakaway from Tayburn headed up by Brian Hook, also merited a number of mentions, one from themselves incidentally, as the industry is also keen to see whether the consultancy can, over the next twelve months, live up to all expectations.
It is also interesting to ask the industry which consultancies they feel are performing well within their own locality, be it the capital Edinburgh, the cultural capital, Glasgow, or Scotland's answer to Dallas, Aberdeen - think about it.
Clearly, the Edinburgh Design Consultancy could be none other than Navy Blue for the reasons mentioned earlier, though Graphic Partners came in a very close second and will be expected to challenge for the title again next year.
In Glasgow, BD-TANK outshone its west-coast competitors, with its fans praising it for continuing to be creatively led and consistently good. Other consultancies such as Pointsize, Locofoco, Third Eye and Blue Peach also received mentions.
Moving to Aberdeen, The Big Picture was the unanimous choice. Working for clients such as Highland Distillers, SMG and Scottish Enterprise, the consultancy remains dominant in the North. Big news this year saw The Big Picture appointed to work on SMG's Ginger brand and also cementing its relationship with The Macallan.
A total of 31 portfolios were submitted for entry into the Creative Poll, which gave our judging panel one hell of a task in picking out the one they felt contained the most impressive pieces of design work.
After much debate, Ben Casey of The Chase, John Barraclough of CheethamBell JWT, Mark Bottomley of Origin and Carol Naylor of McCann-Erickson Manchester narrowed the portfolios down to a top twelve which is listed.
Teviot was adjudged to have submitted the portfolio with the most impressive work and consistent standard of quality for clients such as Malmaison Hotels, Scottish Enterprise and Glenmorangie. Teviot has been going since 1983 and the directors Jane Hall, Kate Laing, Peter Lennon and Douglas MacDowall have built the consultancy into a creative force to rival the likes of BD-TANK, Graphic Partners and newton.eh6. The consultancy also picked up a PAMANDA award recently for its Malmaison corporate Brochure.
Speaking of the win, Hall said: 'We are delighted with the award. Our main vision was to gain clients that allowed us to maximise our creative ability. I think you can have the creative skills, but that has to be coupled with clients who understand the importance of good design.'
In second place comes small Glasgow-based graphic and new media design firm tictoc, which is headed up by David McGilvray. McGilvray works for clients such as Blairs of Scotland, Edinburgh Fringe, Book Festival, Life Learn Centres, Mack Technologies and Ryden Properties and, since starting out in 1999, has carved out a solid creative reputation amongst his peers.
This year's winner, Navy Blue, ranks in third place with work for clients such as Miller Homes, London Sinfonietta, Menzies, Dixons, Baxters, Orange, Rolls Royce, ECA and Tony Stone, amongst others.
Third Eye came fourth for its work for Begg Cashmere, Whitton PR and a self-promotion mailer, which also caught the judges' eyes at last year's Roses Design Awards. Sharing fifth place are Randak, Whitespace and newton.eh6. Randak submitted work for the CSD and Isles of Jura Whisky, while Whitespace impressed the judges with its Scotch Malt Whisky Society brochure, Sandstorm brand identity and literature and its Little Book of Contradictions self-promotion mailer. newton.eh6 struck a chord with its Scottish Museums Council report, Accenture/BFI brochure and British Steel Pensions Scheme annual report.
Best Piece of Work
Not surprisingly, from the mountain of work submitted for the Creative Poll, our judging panel had a few problems pin-pointing the individual piece of work which they all felt merited this award. However, after much debate they managed to narrow it down to two pieces of work - The Robert Horne Diary 2002, designed by Navy Blue, and Malmaison's corporate brochure, designed by Creative Poll winners Teviot. This one really did come down to the wire, but Navy Blue managed to win the category, primarily due to the high standard of the photography contained within the diary.