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Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year

By The Drum | Administrator

February 23, 2006 | 8 min read

The design industry in Scotland continues to morph and grow. While the design stalwarts continue to be profitable, a number of new teams have risen to prominence, taking over where others left off. EH6, Tank, Black ID and, more recently, Pure Design have now gone as industry names. Some sold; others taken over. Some disbanded; others bust. But while the agency names may change, many of the faces remain the same. As do the challenges.

Yet, judging by the entries received for this year’s Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year, the challenges are being met head on – the standard of work, as well as the growth shown by the majority of the consultancies entering the awards, paying testament to this.

Over 100 guests arrived at Edinburgh’s Cargo last week to hear the results of The Drum’s research into the Scottish Design industry. As in years gone by, there were four main polls on which agencies were rated – peer perception, financial results, client satisfaction and their creative output.

It was ultimately the consultancy that scored the highest number of points across these four polls that would capture the Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year hat-stand trophy.

To be in the running for design consultancy of the year, the agency must be rated somewhere in the Peer Poll, the Financial Poll and the Client Satisfaction Poll, with all rankings relative to, arguably the most important poll, the Peer Poll.

This year, having been pipped to the post for the last two years in succession, it was Third Eye Design which, finally, claimed the Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year hat-stand. Following a year of growth which saw the agency open a New York office, and a number of high-profile account wins, the agency was deemed by its peers to be the benchmark for design in Scotland. Third Eye Design also showed that, as well as producing some outstanding work, impressing clients and peers alike, the agency also impressed its accountant, topping the Financial Business Poll too. Third Eye beat last year’s winners, Stand, to the title, relegating its Glasgow-based rivals to second spot. Consolidating last year’s third place spot was Navyblue, this time sharing the place with Contagious.

MD of the Year

As part of the research for the Robert Horne Design Consultancy of the Year awards, The Drum asked Scottish agencies who they thought was the best design managing director. The winner had a very busy year, indeed – with more than his fair share of trans-Atlantic travel involved...

Not only has he opened an office in New York, and recruited a number of key new staff but Mark Noë has been building his agency with a host of high-profile new business wins. The business has continued to perform strongly financially, topping the Financial Poll for the second year running, proving that business and creativity can go hand in hand. For these reasons, Mark Noë remains as Managing Director of the Year.

One to Watch

While this event is about rewarding consultancies that have reached the top of the tree, it is also about identifying those set to follow. This year’s One To Watch, Good Creative, was formed almost two years ago by former 999 Design managing director Keith Forbes and Chris Lumsden. The agency quickly picked up a number of high profile accounts, including Vladivar, Klick, Burn Stewart Distillers and Siemens.

The team’s experience was cited as one of its main attractions, as well as its ability to consistently produce top-drawer creative output for a wide range of clients. No doubt, the industry will be watching with interest to see just how, erm, Good it actually is.

Peer Poll

Last year’s Peer Poll winner, Elmwood, was relegated to third spot this year with both Stand, and this year’s winners, Third Eye, over taking the Edinburgh-based team. Also gaining plaudits this year were Skratch and Navyblue, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Creative Poll

This year it was the “eclectic yet stylish” portfolio submitted by Nevis that lit up the panel’s eyes. Comments from the panel – which consisted of Torben Dunn from Elmwood, Andy O’Dwyer at Love, The Chase’s Ben Casey and David Wood from Iris – included: “a well crafted portfolio. Six great pieces of work. Six reasons to award it this year’s winner.” Last year’s Ones to Watch, Contagious also impressed the judges with a “strong portfolio of work” coming in second position.

Best Individual piece of work

Nevis’ packaging for Whityooswant whisky came out tops this year, as the single piece of work that the judges admired the most. The judges said that the design was “a strikingly different approach to an area where traditional language, both literal and visual are the norm.” However, filling the other two spaces in this category were two pieces of work by the Creative Poll’s runner-up, Contagious: The We Do The Kilt Hire Co brochure and NTS’s annual report.

Client Satisfaction Poll

Bearing in mind that only agencies represented in all four areas of research could be deemed agency of the Year, agencies voted for in the Peer Poll were asked to submit a list of clients to research house, MRUK, to question, in the concluding poll. After the interviews, a list was compiled with 442 leading the herd. In joint second spot were Graphical House and Locofoco. Tayburn was ranked fourth, with Contagious and Third Eye Design sharing fifth.

Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year Financial Poll

Baker Tilly has constructed the table on five aspects of financial and business performance which have been calculated and contrasted across the 28 consultancies. The five aspects are as follows:

ï Design turnover for 2005

ï Design turnover growth in the year

ï Design fee income growth in the year

ï Revenue per design staff employed

ï Revenue per design client

Each consultancy is ranked on the five aspects and then an average score is arrived at for the final table positions. The consultancy that tops the financial poll this year is Third Eye Design, for the second year in a row. It secured first place after being ranked highest in revenue per design staff and performing strongly in the other criteria. Having come first in the poll last year, Third Eye have obviously had to maintain last year’s performance to deservedly secure first place again.

Teviot came in second place this year, improving on last year’s performance of 14th place. While Teviot does not top any of the criteria tables, it performed strongly in most. Teviot’s performance in 2005 almost mirrors that of last year’s second place Navy Blue who came second last year having been 12th the year before. However, this year Navy Blue have been pipped into fourth place as Equator have come through strongly to take third place.

Equator was not ranked in last year’s poll and this year they performed strongly in turnover growth whilst in revenue per design staff they were only middle of table.

Third Eye were well ahead of the other contenders, however, there was not a great deal separating second, third or fourth and in actual fact, coming down the table, there are not any significant yawning gaps. However, there are wide variations in all of the criteria. Only 20 consultancies had managed to achieve design fee growth year on year and 21 consultancies had managed to achieve design turnover growth year on year. As in previous years, it demonstrates that there is a fair bit of business out here for everyone to drive for and win. However, it is a very competitive marketplace and you just cannot afford to stand still.

The tables also give a good view of how different the design businesses are when you look at revenue per design client and the revenue per design staff, the mix of business that is available covers a very broad spectrum.

We look forward to next year’s results with interest.


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