From the client out

As far as product design goes, LL Bean boots are perhaps one of the best examples of consistency in the world. Regardless of fashion trends and the introduction of new technology, the Maine-based company has stuck with the same boot design since it was founded in 1912.

While inspirational, this story is an exception to the general rule. In almost all other cases, brands need to evolve over time to stay relevant to the changing needs of an evolving target market.

The way we talk to those consumers is also evolving and, as a result, the agencies responsible for delivering those messages are also changing the way they do business.

Over the last 40 years, Insight Creative has worked closely with brands across Australia and New Zealand, observing a steady and significant shift in the way business is done.

Rather than watching as his clients were swept away, Insight founder Mike Tisdall has cultivated a culture of adaptation within the business.

“If the world is changing and client needs are changing then we also need to change, and we have been doing just that in a number of ways,” he says.

To truly evolve, change needs to take place at every level of the business, including around the executive table. This is part of the reason why Insight promoted Steven Giannoulis to the position
of chief executive around two years ago – as much about introducing fresh thinking from the top down as about succession planning. 

A client at heart

It goes without saying that this business is all about clients. If they’re not happy with an agency’s output, the relationship will go south faster than a tourist visiting New Zealand for the first time. This precarious balance is something Giannoulis became acutely aware of in the early stages of his career while working on the client side of the industry.

As someone who has experienced client frustrations first-hand, Giannoulis now places advancing clients’ business at the heart of how he manages the agency.

“There’s nothing worse than having an agency deliver work that doesn’t reflect what the brief originally said,” he said.

“Design has to be driven by a business objective otherwise it’s just an art project.”

The trick to identifying client needs requires the design agency to have a clear understanding of the business strategy underpinning an organisation. And, as old school as it may seem, the best way to work that out is by sitting down with the client for a good, long chat.

“As part of our evolution, we’ve been getting clients to come in and talk to us about their challenges, their goals and their frustrations,” says Giannoulis.

It’s a process that has made the team at Insight acutely aware not only of how their clients’ businesses work but also what is expected of a modern design agency. This philosophy is so entrenched that
it was even incorporated into the agency’s name, which couples concepts often viewed as polarities into a single unit ‘Insight Creative’. The point being that creativity should always be informed by insights. Over the years, every piece of client advice has been taken on board, and Insight Creative has aligned its business along the exact lines of client needs.

“When you look at us today, we’re quite a different agency from what we once were,” says Giannoulis. 

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Logical change

Despite steadily evolving the business and diversifying its skill set, Giannoulis says there’s still a perception that Insight specialises only in corporate reports.

“Often, we’re still considered the corporate design agency, and we haven’t been that for seven or eight years,” he says. “This is far from the only thing we do these days.”

Websites, brand, experiential design, internal communications, video and integrated campaigns all fall within the remit of possibilities available at the agency today. These skills have progressively been added to the agency in direct response to what clients want.

Arguably one of the biggest shifts to have occurred at Insight in recent years lies in the development of the digital team. In an age of increasingly defined digital communication channels, clients now demand that their agencies are proficient in the language of ones and zeroes.

“Probably about 50 percent of work now is digital,” says Giannoulis. “A few years ago, we looked into whether we should buy or build a digital company. But we made the decision that we actually have to BE digital. So we went through the process of teaching everyone to be digital.”

“We’ve been recruiting digital experts, doing in-house training and partnering people with different skill sets. We’ve built our digital skills from the ground up.”

While the medium might have changed, one thing that has, however, remained consistent is a commitment to the core principles of good design thinking.

“Part of the reason we decided to build our own digital team is that we can’t necessarily get digital specialists to be good designers, but we can teach designers how to apply good design principles to a digital environment.”

The point here is that what you see on the surface of the final brand, document or website is entirely meaningless unless it helps to solve a problem for the client.

To quote legendary architect Charles Eames: “Recognising the need is the primary condition for design.”

Well, with 40 years already under the belt, it seems that Insight has a pretty strong track record of working out what its clients need and delivering just that. 

Want to see if Insight Creative can help you solve your business problem or realise an opportunity? Get in touch with the team today: [email protected]

  • This story is part of a content partnership with Insight Creative.

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