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Changing times: Manchester’s thriving design community

By The Drum | Administrator

July 6, 2007 | 3 min read

It’s a full-time job trying to keep up with the latest trends and innovations, and in the design sector if you don’t know your faux-baroque from your laptop aesthetics, or haven’t quite got your head around anti-design yet, then you’re out of date by the end of the week. With things moving at pace, The Drum takes a two-part look at Manchester’s thriving design community.

In the first section, Design Initiative’s project manager Frank Collins looks at some of the key trends, challenges and obstacles facing design agencies in Manchester. In the second section, we turn our attentions to creativity with a gallery of work produced by some of the city’s most talented design teams…

While you’re trying to ‘get down with the kids’ on the creative side of your business, you may well miss the latest thinking on client relationships and market advantage.

Design Initiative meets designers and artists every day to get a good overview of what’s happening in the creative field – and in the business world. For us, it’s the humanism of design aesthetics that’s emerging of late. As illustration makes a welcome comeback – albeit as a kind of novelty that big brand owners love – there’s also some homework to be done on what’s happening in the digital domain.

Here, the highly rendered 3D graphics of yesterday – so symptomatic of the tyranny of design software – are being challenged by designers who are happy to allow mistakes and errors to inform and appear in their work. The anti-design mob are ditching formalism as a refreshing alternative to the spread of corporate design, and they’re using both digital and non-digital manipulation to come up with brasher, edgier work.

And the faux-baroque is still with us, with both its dependence on rococo scrolls and cartouches together with the abundant use of natural forms, such as expanding crystals and burgeoning plant-life, offering a seemingly homegrown and luxurious touch to recent work.

But while you’re keeping in touch with all of this, are you thinking about the innovations to be implemented in the actual running of your business? For instance, have you tapped into the grey or the green yet? If even Wal-Mart is starting to promote eco-friendliness, where do you start? There’s a lot of revenue in this market, and eco-friendly processes and technologies need to be seriously considered as green awareness becomes the trend du jour.

Then there’s the older demographic as a major opportunity for marketing. You need to be sensitive of not patronising anyone over the age of 40 when you start looking for clients targeting the post-Woodstock generation.

Frustrated by the low impacts you’re making with your client base, you may want to consider consumer-generated advertising. Get your clients to make your advertising for you. Take that word-of-mouth recommendation to the next level by giving your cheerleaders the tools to enhance your position in the market.

Some agencies are waking up to the fact that they can have a spectacular relationship with clients if they connect directly to the insights and aspirations of the client. You can co-create with the right kind of client if you encourage them to be open about what they do, leading to better results in the design thinking process for both parties.

Frank Collins, frank@designinit.org.uk

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