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Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year

By The Drum | Administrator

April 6, 2007 | 9 min read

The Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year, in essence, acts as a barometer for the success – or otherwise – of the design industry in Scotland. It polls both those that work in the industry and those that the industry serves, to judge who is out-performing the competition financially, creatively and in terms of service.

This year there were three main areas for consideration. Firstly the Financial Poll. All entering agencies were asked to fill in detailed financial results for their agency, which were then compiled by accountants Baker Tilly to produce a league table of financial performance.

The second element to the review was the Client Poll. Research agency mruk polled hundreds of clients over a three-month period to reveal their views on the agencies that they work with.

The Third part of the research is a Peer Poll, questioning competitors and peers in the industry on who they believe to be the outstanding design agency in Scotland. These three areas of research are added to by One to Watch and Managing Director of the Year polls.

The research proves that the competition in Scotland gets no less fierce. The quest for new business continues... as does the quest to keep design at the heart of every clients strategy.

Financial Poll

Baker Tilly has constructed the table on five aspects of financial and business performance which have been calculated and contrasted across the 29 consultancies.

Each consultancy is ranked in design turnover for 2006, design turnover growth, design fee income growth, revenue per design staff employed and revenue per design client - with an average score arrived at for the final table positions.

The consultancy that tops the financial poll this year is: Good Creative. It performed very strongly in the growth criteria and managed to oust Third Eye Design from the position it held for the past two years. They nevertheless performed strongly, to come in second place. Whilst not showing significant design fee growth their performance in the other categories has been strong. Elmwood Design has come in third place, improving on last years performance of eighth place whereas last years’ second place was held by Teviot Design, who are now well down the table.

By using a mix of criteria to judge the consultancies it will hopefully provide some balance to the overall result. This is evidenced by the fact that the top five were very close together and indeed the next ten consultancies had very little separating them too.

This year 22 consultancies have managed to achieve design fee growth and 21 have managed to achieve design turnover growth year on year.

The other information on revenue per design staff and revenue per design client clearly demonstrates the vast difference there is in the nature of the business that each consultancy is undertaking when the differences from highest to lowest can be a factor of 11 for design staff and a factor of almost 30 for revenue per design client.

Jack McLaren, Baker Tilly

Client Satisfaction Poll

This assesses how satisfied clients are with the service they receive from Scotland’s design consultancies.

The Client poll is taken from an extensive research programme conducted on behalf of The Drum by research house mruk. Each year over 1500 clients are approached and asked to rate the marketing service providers they use in Scotland.

This process takes up to three months and is conducted under strict market research guidelines and the results are verified by mruk.

We ask clients to rate their suppliers on various elements including account handling, creativity, value for money, strategic thinking and overall professionalism.

The full research helps The Drum compile the Recommended Agencies Guide and is now forming the structure for the Recommended Agencies Register as well as providing the information for this poll.

There has been a great response from clients this year and The Drum completed a further research to get a better picture on those agencies that were mentioned, but didn’t have enough information to assess accurately.

This year Ian McIlroy and Various shared tenth spot, with Navyblue and Avian in joint eighth. Overall winners Third Eye Design came in seventh.

The top five consisted of The Hub and Whitespace in joint fifth; Elmwood at fourth; Nevis in third spot; with Redpath and Hookson tying at the top of the poll.

In an extremely tight poll, both firms scored highly across areas of creativity, account handling and overall professionalism in the eyes of their clients.

This is the third time in the last five years that Hookson has topped the Client Poll, winning it in 2003, 2005 and now 2007.

There were many companies vying for a position in the top ten in this year’s client poll and it’s important too to mention a few that came in at a very close eleventh – such as Good Creative, 442, Hyphen Design, Tayburn, Adamson Design, and Blue Square.

One to Watch

This year there was not one, but two agencies to watch. So, rather than One to Watch, it is Ones to Watch.

Firstly Good Creative, for the second year in a row, is getting its competitors hot under the collar. Over the last year Good has continued to expand and develop, moving into a new home and working with an increasing number of high profile brands throughout the UK and further a field – from Bunnahabhain to BenQ-Siemens. The Glasgow-based agency continues to go from strength to strength, particularly in the digital field, and persists in keeping its rivals and peers looking over their shoulders.

Also voted as Ones to Watch was Graphical House, who certainly made a mark on the Scottish Design Industry last year, winning the Grand Prix award for its work for the BBC at the Scottish Design Awards, while Daniel Ibbotson won Designer of the Year at the same event. In the coming year many in the design industry in Scotland will be expecting more of the same, having voted Graphical House the joint ‘Ones to Watch’ with Good Creative.

Managing Director of the Year

Mark Noë was voted by his industry peers as the Managing Director of the Year in both 2005 and 2006. This year was no different.

His agency has accumulated praise for consistently producing excellent design work while adding to its client list. He runs a lean, efficient and profitable agency, which has allowed him to make some big-name creative hiring’s.

Noë takes his agency from strength to strength and successfully now works out of London as well as New York and, of course, Glasgow. His peers have described him as “a real asset to Scottish design.”

Peer Poll

The Peer Poll is always a highly competitive area of research and is intended to gauge the views of those that work in the industry as to who they believe is leading the way in the business at present - producing the best work, working with some of the best clients and running the most successful agencies.

A number of agencies were voted for this year, however one stood head and shoulders above the rest at the top table.

For “consistency”, “growth”, “intelligent and stylish work”, “investing in talent” and “a design led philosophy that has earned them a solid reputation”, the winner of the Peer Poll, for the second year in a row, is Third Eye Design who accumulated an exceptional number of votes.


On the surface at least, the last year in design hasn’t been particularly memorable. The number of truly significant events, agency launches, people moves and large-scale re-brands has been low. But look under the skin and there is much to report. Most importantly design (and its powerful potential) is higher on the agenda now than it has been for years. Which is great news.

There is lots happening: The Six Cities Festival is just round the corner with its broad appeal and truly national inclusion; Having established a buoyant scene in the North West, D&AD is poised to ramp up its design activities in Scotland; and the DBA has increased its Scottish membership to an all-time high. More exciting though, has been the rise of a new, younger design scene. The guys at Long Lunch have built great support and continue to push the boundaries. Shops like Analogue and Form are fuelling our interest in all things design and agencies like Skratch and Graphical House are doing great things.

So if this is the case, you would have thought that the larger agencies would have been inundated with uber-creative, young designers desperate for challenging jobs. Sadly not. I can’t speak for everyone, but we are finding it harder than ever to find good, new talent. Maybe the best are being lured to places perceived to be ‘cooler’ like London and Manchester, or heading overseas for inspiration. Wherever they are, the industry needs to work harder to keep them in Scotland.

Judging by the number of new offices and start-ups, the industry appears to be as robust as ever. Navyblue is opening in Leeds, Third Eye has acquired an agency in London and Emperor’s Scottish office appears to be going well. The last year has also seen the re-birth of STV, the Commonwealth Games bid branding and the launch of some really interesting new brands like No Catch, Just Cod. All good stuff.

On the downside though (for me at least), has been the continuing decline of print. People have talked of its demise for ages, but as each year goes by the signs are increasingly ominous. For me there’s still nothing better than receiving a great piece of print. So good luck to people like Summerhall who are still investing.

Overall it’s been a pretty good year. Lots to look forward to and hopefully loads of great print and young designers work in the forthcoming nominations for the Scottish Design Awards.

Nick Ramshaw

DBA Regional Director

March 2007


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