A new designpartner, well sort of – interview with Wayne Meadows.
What’s happening with your studio? Are you rebranding or have you restructured?
dp: It’s actually been a process over the last three years to get to this place. The business has traditionally been kind of a large cohort of designers and when Alan Meadows started meadowset graphics in 1972 & we spawned designpartner in 2009, it was based on the idea that you didn’t have a huge amount of people in one place but you had small, skilled workers dotted around that had fixed teams. Then you joined together to make larger projects when those came in.
Even that has now been superseded by the third model, which is what we call nuclei that are almost like nerve centres, and then you bring in the special support you need depending on what projects are going on, which means you can be working with the right kind of experts rather than trying to get every designer you have to be an expert in everything you offer. So hence the partner part of the name.
Design needs to be so multidisciplinary now
It means we can work with great people, and so for instance if we’re working on a project for an electronics company we can look at motion graphics or a web developer, or a sound designer like 2AM, or whatever we need. In the old days of commercial art, an artist would do screen printing, typography, photography, illustration, deal with the clients, do the billing, I mean everything. People would have been doing all of those things and that’s the old commercial artists model. So it’s sort of a bit like that but magnified to the power of a hundred now.
Why do you think that is?
dp: Because, say five or 10 years ago most of our work came from clients that wanted a one-stop shop for everything. So they would come to us for a brand design, then we would also deliver digital templates, print templates, environmental and physical installation templates, and then all of the brand materials on top of that so we would supply a complete DNA at that point. But clients tend now to shop around for the different parts of their own output. So they might go somewhere separately for all of their web, for all of their branding and for their print provision. So it’s a different shift and we found clients weren’t quite clear on what we were offering, because we were offering everything.
We need to be more flexible than we were before
It’s just flipped, I think it’s recessionary thinking in a way. You’d rather parcel it up and say right, we’ve got our website, and you look at that as almost a separate business model for example. So there’s less time across everything. But there’s more specialism, so ironically we need to be more flexible than we were before and the only way to do that is to have staff of over a hundred, each one of them having a different nuanced specialism. We’re multi-specialists through having a great team of people we can pull in.
It’s all going to go this way, it’s going to be obviously small office, home-office-based networks. Good individuals won’t be working for companies in contracts, they’ll be moving around companies on projects. It’s not zero hours, it’s basically a very large free-market model for services.
How has that come about?
dp: Well we’ve been building for two to three years, and going as an operational model and it’s working well now. So if we’re doing type design, for instance, we know the people we pull in to work with us on the development but they don’t have to be permanently based here. It sounds like a no-brainer in a way but I think the old model of a boutique agency doing everything with a full-time staff is gone. I suspect the giant model of, like 50 designers, becoming a sort of factory like, those big agency days are over as well. I think it’s just about being agile, more than anything.
Is this happening because technology is enabling people to work remotely or from whenever they need to be?
dp: Exactly. It’s neither one thing or the other, it’s not only a remote model, which some service agencies can do, and it’s not only a physical model, you need a mixture of both. There still needs to be a physical location, a place for potentially physically collaboration. And there needs to be the ability to pull in services from around the globe if necessary, and it becomes an extended physical space into an electronic space.
The old model of a boutique agency doing everything is gone.
And this has resulted in a rebrand of your thinking?
dp: designpartner basically came out of [the fact that] we were always going to be smaller and remotely based. But we realised we didn’t want to be that 50-person company. So we dropped the push towards that, and ever since it has been a customer lead, quality product all the way throughout our projects.
No matter what, people still expect me to sit in all of the meetings and be doing all the projects personally, so in the end we thought we might as well stop the smoke and mirrors and get down and do some great work for our clients.
Anyway, thanks for your time and enjoy some of summer, look forward to hearing from you all soon.