London Design Festival Event shows designers how to beat free pitching and spec work by standing out from the crowd

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Design writer and design business advisor Sean Ashcroft shows how identikit design is to blame for free pitching and spec creative, and how simple market positioning is the solution

Designers play at marketing themselves, as they’d rather be off creating, even if this is for free, which it frequently is.”

The London Design Festival 2011 will laud all that is great about design, but one festival event will focus on “catastrophic shortcomings” in the profession.

The event, called ‘How Design Stopped Being Special’, is fronted by design writer and design business consultant, Sean Ashcroft.

“Designers are hopeless at marketing themselves,” says Ashcroft. MD of marketing-for-designers consultancy, Zyzzyva ( “They only play at it, because they’d rather be off creating, even if this is for free, which it frequently is.”

Ashcroft adds: “Ineffectual marketing has resulted in a bewildering lack of differentiation in communication design, and it is this that is driving spec creative and free design pitching.

“After all, If everything’s vanilla, of course client prospects will be compelled to taste before buying, which is exactly why every business sector bar design lives by the diktat, ‘Differentiate or die’.”

Ashcroft says the design profession worldwide must wake up to the critical importance of differentiating, “designer by designer and agency by agency”.

He concludes: “What I’ll be doing at the London Design Festival is urging design practitioners to do for themselves what they often do so brilliantly for clients.

“We’ll be looking at the importance of communicating expertise to narrow markets, and relatively simple and inexpensive ways to achieve this, both online and offline.”

‘How Design Stopped Being Special’ takes place on Friday, September 23rd from 1.30-3.00pm at Seminar Room 1, Sackler Centre, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Tickets are £12, with £5 concessions for students. Book here:


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Sean Ashcroft

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