Innovation and re-imagination.

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By Paul Thompson

A leading and well respected Financial Times journalist, Mike Southon, recently suggested that 2009 would be a great year in which to start a new company – citing that turbulent times often inspire innovation and re-imagination.

This clearly suggests that those companies within the creative and technology markets have a particularly great opportunity to show their metal.

Conversely though it has often been said that the first things that clients cut back on during economic downturns are their design and marketing budgets. This somewhat traditional approach suggests that they regard this side of their business as a non-critical expenditure – that it is something that they can operate well enough without. It also suggests that they have either underestimated its full potential, have historically received poor service – or both.

My hope is that all forward-thinking clients view good ideas as a critical part of their business and therefore, by association, design services too.


1. Instinct. Trust your instincts when appointing an agency – they’re often as reliable as any drawn-out credentials process. If you’re not 100% sure arrange an informal meeting after work hours and outside of your office environment to get more ‘under the skin’ of the agency.

2. Trust. Once you have commissioned an agency trust them to do their job well.

3. Honesty. Encourage an open and honest relationship. It is absolutely critical that both parties are able to speak their hopes, desires and concerns freely – it is this dynamic that can make the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

4. Vision. Don’t compromise your vision unless your agency gives you a compelling reason to change or adjust it.

5. Listening. It has been said that we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. If you find that the agency are not listening to you – make yourself heard.

6. The brief. The best briefs are no longer than two sentences long. It’s not always easy but it’s an excellent way of concentrating the mind on exactly what you want from your communication piece.

7. Push. The brief is only the starting point – a good consultancy will help you push the brief beyond its original parameters.

8. Enjoy. The design process should be an enjoyable one – if you’re not enjoying the journey change the the dynamics in some radical way.

9. Don’t settle for being cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black

10. Value. Don’t settle for just aesthetics – your communication vehicle needs to sell your products or services first and look good second. Demand value for your money.

11. Feedback. Agency to client feedback (good and bad) is very important – any good consultancy should also be interested in how their work performs beyond the production and invoicing phase.

12. Client to agency feedback (good and bad) is also very important – you’ve no idea how few clients do it – but it promotes rewarding and long-lasting relationships.

13. Response. How your agency responds to your feedback is the mark of how good they truly are.

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