It was an interesting year 2019 – we think of it as the year of the big squeeze. The big squeeze is the impact of shrinking timeframes on the way work gets done. And it is gaining pace, moving faster than the rate of change in work methods.
In the face of the big squeeze, we are seeing a growth in outsourcing from in-house studios where the old ways of working are yet to be changed. This looks a lot like the start of a familiar trend cycle – the swing from in-house studios to hybrid model that includes specialist firms. In-house studios are here to stay but the failure of the old ways of working to deal with the big squeeze focuses attention on specialist studios with manufacturing skills.
There was some really good stuff happening in 2019 that made it easier to respond to the big squeeze: digital tools are improving at a faster rate than ever before so we continued to find productivity gains via technology; and relationships are back in vogue which facilitates better collaboration and improved knowledge transfer (and makes work easier and much more enjoyable!).
The big squeeze takes the time available to do any projects and attempts to permanently reduce it. When time is squeezed, throwing more hours at a project is not a viable solution. But there are ways to make the time available work more efficiently.
A new, smarter way of working is the only way to beat the squeeze. We are now in a time where manufacturing expertise is vital. Manufacturing is a term rarely used in design studios – most call it production. But production is not enough anymore. Manufacturing is about hitting deadlines, being lean with resources, developing processes to be utterly consistent in quality and being smart with techniques – and then being able to scale for volume. Deep knowledge of tools and processes is vital to be successful at manufacturing. And this knowledge comes from outside of graphic design training and studio experience.
But specialist manufacturing expertise is at risk of becoming even more specialised or rare because it is a skill developed from experience and the idea that everything can be googled is incompatible with developing deep knowledge.
At Hothouse Design we love the big squeeze because it takes us to our happy place where we flex our manufacturing muscles and find ways to make every moment count. We get to design processes that create consistency in production and eliminate the opportunity for errors. We get to develop those processes over the course of repeated ‘batch manufacturing’ so that we build into those processes the knowledge gained with each repeat.
We are working with a number of in-house studios to produce projects that either have impossible deadlines or need processes that aren’t available in-house. This is a really enjoyable space to work in as it is all about collaboration with the opportunity to transfer skills in-house from our unique manufacturing perspective.
Looking forward to 2020, we expect to see the growth of the hybrid of in-house/specialist studio model and are working towards ways to share the knowledge we have developed from our varied manufacturing backgrounds.
It's going to be a fabulous year for those who love the challenge of finding better ways.