Midlands and West Design Review

By The Drum, Administrator

December 12, 2002 | 6 min read

There are three things that you loyal readers of The Marketeer must look forward to each December. One: the question in the moving pictures section that in some way alludes to “Santa’s sack”. Two: the photographic evidence that illustrates that your normally professional agency folk lose their inhibitions, their ability to dance and, ultimately, their marbles after the first sniff of festive champagne. And, finally, and perhaps the most predictable of all, the feature reporting that yet again Leicester’s Checkland Kindleysides have danced like butterflies, stung like killer bees and KO’d the competition in another Robert Horne Midlands and West Design Review.

Yes, it seems like Christmas never fails to come early for the reigning champions of the Southern(ish) scene. The kids at CK have again been good all year, and to reward them The Marketeer last month presented them with their third Robert Horne hat-stand in a row. Which, according to Parenthesis’ creative director, Craig Spivey, marks something of a “hat-stand hat-trick”. Thanks for that Craig.

Moving swiftly on ... it’s not that the competition is getting any easier either. This year saw a whole host of new entrants eager to get their mitts on the assorted accolades up for grabs, ranging from the desirable Best Piece of Work gong to the “success guarantor”* that is the One to Watch (*NB award may not actually guarantee success).

To get said mitts on the booty, design agencies from across the competing regions had to rise Torvil-and-Deanesque above the competition in numerous judging criteria. First gliding through a revealing questionnaire, before performing a triple salko in financial terms and finally refraining from falling on their backsides when their work was judged by a panel of extra-regional experts. In the end it was Checkland who skated away with perfect sixes, but there was plenty more room on the ice for deserved laps of honour from some very worthy competitors.

Creative Poll

For the crowd that gathered in Bristol’s beautiful Glassboat Restaurant one of the first awards of the day was potentially the most coveted.

In an industry that sells itself on the execution of good ideas, the creative poll is perhaps the one accolade that everyone wants in their crosshairs. To hit the target, agencies are required to submit portfolios containing a selection of their finest work from the last twelve months, which is then judged by a coterie of Scottish designers (in this year’s case – Jim Ramsey from 999, Davinder Samrai of Freight, Third Eye’s Mark Noe and Graham Sheach of CAN Design).

As in the previous year, it was our sharp-shooting friends in Leicester who hit bull’s-eye yet again.

Of Checkland’s impressive gallery of work, for clients such as Levi’s, Mothercare and Henri-Lloyd, the judges commented, “A broad spectrum of creativity was demonstrated in the body of work on display. The short-listed consultancies were particularly outstanding. However, the winner collectively represented true creativity through illustration, photography and typography alike, resulting in an enviable folio of work.” A case of Checkmate in the game of creativity then.

Financial Poll

The creative poll may have the ability to make designers’ hearts swell with pride, but hearts will only function for so long if the body of their company goes without nourishment. In other words, they need to earn some money as well as respect. Thankfully for us, Edward Corrigan of accountants Baker Tilly was on hand to analyse the financial results of the competing companies over the last year and tell us who’s fighting fit and who’s been suffering from a bit of a fiscal famine. As it happened, more than one company appeared to have expanding bottom lines.

“For the second year in a row, a photo finish was required,” Corrigan. “However, we could not separate the three winners, who are: Checkland Kindleysides, Domino Systems and Parenthesis.”

Explaining the judging system, he elucidated, “The financial poll was prepared using the following criteria: total turnover, year on year growth, turnover per member of design staff, turnover per client and design fee as a percentage of turnover. By using these criteria we get an overall mix that ensures agencies need to perform across all of them – and this year’s winners were neck and neck throughout the contest.”

Regional and Other Awards

Rising star Thirteen may have just missed out on a podium place in the financial fold, but the company proved lucky for some (namely their clients) by seemingly scoring at will in the remaining categories. The team, debuting at these awards, nodded home the South West Design Consultancy of the Year title before breaking the back of the net with the prestigious Peer Poll gong. A stunning brace that helped elevate the team to equal second position in the final Robert Horne rankings.

Not so much following hot on their heels as joining them in a bit of a three-legged race came Northbank. The firm, based in Bath, cleaned up in the Best Portfolio round before just missing out to the mercurial Steers McGillan in the One to Watch stakes. A slight disappointment perhaps, but one appropriately assuaged by the achievement of their joint runners-up performance overall.

Compared with these veritable rookies in the Midlands and West awards arena, the old pro that is Parenthesis has enjoyed considerable success over the last two years – hitting home runs aplenty and perpetually harrying team CK for the season’s silverware. Unfortunately, this year the same order of success eluded them slightly, as they failed to rank in the top five consultancies, despite taking the West Midlands title, in conjunction with their robustly muscular financial performance. Luckily, the team’s all-conquering role at this year’s Roses has ensured that, despite the vacant space for that hat-stand, the agency remains amply furnished with blooming creativity.

Of the remaining four awards of the day, Checkland tightened its stranglehold on the event by clasping the East Midlands prize, whilst ensuring that its creative reputation was cemented with the Best Piece of Work title (secured for client Speedo). Richard McGillan rounded off a good day at the office for Steers McGillan by taking home the Designer of the Year accolade, whilst Ian Clewett of Newenglish proved to be a popular choice for Young Designer of the Year.

And that is that. Congratulations to the winners and good luck to all the competing agencies in the run-up to next year’s event.

In the meantime, if any clients are aiming to augment your Christmas presence, we’d suggest forgetting the letter to Lapland and penning one to Leicester instead. There you’ll probably get exactly what you want and, what’s more, it’ll happen more than once a year. Merry Christmas, folks.


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