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The Drum Elmwood Design

The Drum Design Census 2014 results revealed as average agency fee income grows year-on-year


By Sam Scott | former employee

March 19, 2014 | 5 min read

The results of The Drum Design Census, the UK’s most comprehensive overview of the commercial design landscape to date, has been released for a third year.

The report has been compiled to highlight the performance of agencies across a range of design and brand implementation services. This will provide valuable insight for stakeholders in search of deeper understanding of the industry.

Presented within the census is a detailed analysis of the commercial design agency landscape, which includes rankings of agencies across three key dimensions: financial performance, client satisfaction and peer recognition. In addition, the report has outlined the success of agencies that performed average best across these measures, earning them 'elite' status.

Agencies were ranked against those of a similar size, with the 147 agencies that took part having been divided into groups of 10 or less members of staff, 11-19 and 20 or more (20+) design staff, ensuring a fair and valuable comparison with their competition.

From the agencies which employed 20+ members of staff, London agency Design Bridge took first place in the financial poll where it achieved the highest fee income and fee income growth of any agency in the census. However, Elmwood, in addition to topping the peer recognition poll, ranked top of the Elite table after producing the highest average score across the three polls. Purpose and The One Off received the most positive ratings from their clients, making them joint leaders of the group's client satisfaction table.

Of the agencies with between 10 and19 staff members, Ferrier Pearce Creative Group's consistent top-five performances across all financial metrics saw it take poll position in this section’s Financial poll. Whilst Pearlfisher came in twelve places behind the leaders on financial terms alone, its top three rankings in both the client satisfaction and peer recognition tables saw it the overall winner among the group's elites. Home and Juice took the top spots in the group's peer and client polls respectively.

Finally of the agencies to hire 10 or less design staff members, some exceptional financial performers were found, but overall it was Cognition that was number one in the financial poll due to top-five performances across several financial metrics. Cog Design received the most votes in the peer poll, and ranked third in the client poll.

Cog’s performance average across the three dimensions saw it join Elmwood and Pearlfisher in the census' top three elite agencies, while Blood and Pixeldot shared the top spot in the 10 or less client poll.

Trends highlighted out of the final polls painted an encouraging picture financially as 84 per cent saw positive growth in fee-income from the previous financial year, with the set of 141 agencies ranked according to financial performance producing an average fee income growth of £225k.

The combined fee-income of these 141 agencies totaled £281m, with the 20+ group responsible for over 55 per cent of this figure, despite including only 20 per cent of agencies ranked on financial measures.

While the large agencies tended to produce the highest gross income figures, the financial polls revealed a positive correlation between smaller staff number and high proportional income growth. The smallest staff-size group achieved an average fee-income growth of 39.2 per cent year on year, whilst the 10-19 and 20+ sets averaged 24.2 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively.

The census covered a broad range of agencies in terms of staff size, with the largest, Seymour Powell, comprising of 84 members of design staff, and the smallest, Totem Studio, operating with just one. The 141 agencies that took part in the financial poll are comprised of exactly 2055 design staff, with an average of 15 design staff per agency.

In terms of efficiency, the average fee income per head across the financial sample is £129k.

Further details have been released on the Drum Census website.

The Elite Tables as well as the Financial Tables are both available to view online also.

A round up of some of the statistics to emerge from the Census can be viewed in the infographic below.

The Drum Elmwood Design

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