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Design Industry Overview

By The Drum, Administrator

April 10, 2002 | 7 min read

Although it's hard to believe, it's been twelve months since The Marketeer named the last North of England Design Consultancy of the Year.

Ordinarily, these reviews spring up before anyone realises, with the awards seeming to be almost monthly rather than annually. This year, however, with the titanic events of 2001 firmly planted in mind, some could be forgiven for thinking that the last year has been more like a decade.

Which is why now, as the winners from this year's research take their respective places on the podium, is perhaps a better time than any to remind clients of some of the big events in northern design from the last twelve months.

As with almost any year, 2001 was a tumultuous one for the northern design industry, perhaps personified by the roller-coaster ride experienced by last year's Design Consultancy of the Year champion: Tucker Clarke Williams. TCW, for some time an awards magnet in the northern design scene, suffered a blow not long after carrying home its Design Consultancy of the Year crown last year, when some of its senior team left to form their own agency.

The story has been one of the best publicised of the last twelve months, with the four-strong breakaway team forming Love Creative and subsequently picking up work for the likes of the Commonwealth Games and The Big Issue in the North.

Meanwhile, TCW has been forced to downsize and merge with sister company Magneto as it positions itself to climb back up to the top of the tree.

And the top of the tree, or at least very close to it, is where fellow Manchester consultancy The Chase has spent the last twelve months.

From working on the identity for the Government's 'Count Me In' campaign for the 2001 Census through to designing the interior for the new National Football Museum and chalking up a number of new awards, The Chase has definitely had a busy year.

The consultancy has not even let its own serving of bad luck slow it down. Following the poaching of Leeds office creative director Richard Scholey by long-time rivals Elmwood, the consultancy took the decision to close the Leeds operation and concentrate on London.

The result, after several months of speculation, was the launch of a London office fronted by celebrated London designer Harriet Devoy.

Indeed, in terms of the design industry, setting up was a recurring theme during last year.

Another new consultancy to storm onto the scene has been True North in Manchester. Fronted by three veterans of both the London and northern arenas, True North has already been making a name for itself by winning work from, amongst others, the Imperial War Museum and Crown Paints.

In Leeds 'the SPIRIT of' was formed when a design team from stalwart agency Advertising Principles broke away under a cloud of controversy. The newly established consultancy has since been chosen by Golden Vale to develop its well-known Cheestring brand.

Further north, Newcastle-based NE6 has expanded into Scotland with the recruitment of high-profile Scottish designers Graham Scott and Ian McIlroy.

The new Scottish operation, named Nevis Design, launched last year and within months managed to work its way into the top ten consultancies in The Drum's Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year review, as well as being named One to Watch for 2002.

Scotland has also been an area of expansion for Elmwood, this year's North of England Design Consultancy of the Year.

Elmwood poached two creative directors from Graphic Partners in Edinburgh, Paul Sudron and Graham Sturzaker, to head up its new Scottish operation, in an effort to build on the success already being achieved in England.

Last year the company's successes included the design of the temporary branding for Halifax and the Bank of Scotland's merger as well as increasing staff in both the Leeds and London offices.

Attik, another of Yorkshire's finest, also made the headlines last year, not only with its design work for Paramount Hotels, Virgin Mobiles and Virgin Wear, but also for its support of the local design community through working with Huddersfield University to create the world's first Masters Degree in Creative Imaging.

But it hasn't just been the performances of these agencies that have stood out over the last twelve months. Individual projects and developments have also succeeded in hitting the headlines.

Such as Preston-based consultancy The Point rebranding Compass Group's chain of motorway service stations from Granada to Moto, Manchester's Freerange Design winning the advertising account for the new Great Northern development in the city and Hutchison Leek rebranding the entire Europe-wide Mother and Baby Club for Huggies.

Another significant change was the rebranding of Montage Baron Bridgewater to Refinery.

Also worthy of note was the rebranding of Tidy Britain Group by Media Mission, who also parted company with one of its joint managing directors after a management reshuffle.

On the events side, last year heralded the first ever Roses Design Symposium, arranged by The Marketeer's parent company the Carnyx Group along with the Liverpool and Manchester Design Initiative.

The symposium played host to characters such as Conran Design's David Chaloner, Jonathan Sands from Elmwood and The Chase's Michael Fraser and dealt with the important issue of who should take control of a business relationship: the client or the consultancy?

The launch of the first ever Roses Design Awards was also marked in 2001. Previously included as part of The Roses Awards event, last year it was judged time for the equally important field of design be given its own event.

The judging panel for the event included such international design names as Alice Twemlow from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Lee Coomber of Wolff Olins and Paul Priestman of Priestman Goode. The panel was chaired by Peter Saville, who first rose to fame as a co-founder of Manchester's infamous Factory Records.

The awards themselves were not dominated by any one consultancy, perhaps highlighting the range of good design in the North. However, the two top awards, the Grand Prix and the Chairman's Award, were both won by young consultancies: Origin and Love Creative, both of whom have enjoyed a swift rise to fame over the last year.

As with any twelve-month period, there were also a couple of low points.

Despite the undoubted design talents of Graphic Partners Manchester, the loss of a major client last year led to the closing of the Manchester consultancy. However, with two of the team since setting up MA:T Designers and one moving to Manchester's Creative Lynx, the North West has, thankfully, not lost the talent.

Another low point was the unfortunate snubbing of the North by Manchester's Halle Orchestra. The Halle has traditionally always taken pride in its northern roots, but earlier this year chose to hand its rebranding contract to London's Wolff Olins.

That aside, the last twelve months has been a strong one for design in the North.

When it comes to having a selection of top designers to work on your brief, clients have never had it better. Breakaway teams are setting up their own design studios, established consultancies are expanding into new regions and more northern designers are winning national accounts.

Long may it continue.

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