We have always had a tendency to tell the clients what we think about the briefs. Quite early on we started saying, okay we will go back and re-write your brief to see if we both agree. That has developed into a much more strategic approach, where often we will write the briefs from the get-go. I think we have always been direct with people, which pays dividends.
Maybe that also reflects a slight change in the balance of power between the manufactures and the designers in that period. A move towards a time when designers had more say and it was becoming less top down.
It was a funny mix, because we were delighted to have work. And if someone said, please design a chair, we tended to design a chair. But at the same time, Luke is right, we were always honest when we didn’t agree or appreciate something. Weirdly, we had to go and find work outside the UK. Sheridan and then Modus were some of the only companies that were commissioning at the time. We were not in Sheridan’s camp at that point, and we spent our time hunting work in foreign countries.
It’s interesting that there are still so few British companies commissioning design.
There was no outsourcing at that point. Eastern Europe was just opening up, China was emerging. So, actually if you didn’t make it, it was very difficult to get stuff made and sold. It was just at the beginning of that process. We had to figure out how to work. We have this blend between consultancy and royalty, those two sectors. Everyone will tell you, you can’t earn a living on the royalty game alone. So we have always had to try to balance. How do you send someone an invoice? How do you actually get paid? That’s a really interesting process. One of the things we decided not to do very early, I think it was conscious, is that we really like working with a brief. So, we have never really produced speculative work, that we would try to sell either to a client or the public. We never got into that small batch production thing, or producing something that you tout around. We have always been much more interested in the relationship. What is the need of the client? What is their market and culture?
Perhaps the industry has caught up with that approach. Getting designers more involved in their whole ecosystem and culture.