Innovation or execution?

Are there any ID firms left that actually get to do innovation, rather then just execute? Cant tell you how many times clients neglect the consumer prefered direction/features and go for the “safe” move or push for their own ideas that developed thinking on the pot. Completely understanding that design is a business, I get that totally with profits and the whole bit.
But does’nt it seem that more and more projects/clients are “reduce cost” situations with no real goal of innovation for the end-user? So lame to think some clients think “innovation” is adding a new color line/labels. Why dont people see that design can be so much more.

There is a minority of well-known ID consultancies and corporate design groups that do phenomenally original work but those I’ve worked in or with fit your description. Business-wise, these are veeeeery safe times we live in, too many gold seekers got seriously burned over the past 2 decades, so “innovation” itself is turning into a dirty word.

Add to this the simple real-life lesson than innovation alone (newness) is far from being a guarantee for product success. Incremental value changes tend to work better and cost far less in time and money. A designer can never totally “let loose” by working for someone else, so you’ll see great ideas and opportunities pass right under your boss’s nose without the company lifting a finger. Cut the middleman and do your own stuff if the end user’s best interest is truly your primary concern.

we do both.

most of the “innovation” work doesn’t see the light of day, so it stays as concepts, and never gets seen by the public. almost half the work we do can’t be show in a portfolio.

some clients love the innovative work, but the safe approach better suits their business plans. some firms strive on that kind of work, while other are more about real product development.

innovation is fun, but so is given some very clear guidlines and spending time on styling, materials, and branding…

a balance is always nice.

the previous post begs the question:

can you really consider something an innovation if it doesn’t see the light of day?

I’m not trying to start a fight here, but I’m really wondering what our best definition of the term is?

To answer the original posts question: yes, there are firms (that I have worked with) who are still doing innovative work.

To me, providing ‘innovation’ is as much about being a good consultant as it is getting good clients and projects. A client might not *say they want innovative work in a brief, but they’ve asked an outside source (the consultant) to provide them with solutions because they couldn’t do it themselves. This often opens up the *possibilities for innovation, but its up to the designers to communicate the value of their recommendations and support the client with making the decision to spend the $$.

Glad to hear there is still hope for design firms and that some people are doing innovative work, pushing the line.
Sadly where I am at is not, and let me tell you it sucks.
I agree that as a consultant, you need to properly communicate the value of design and/or innovation to your client, however that is easier said than done. Much of the time firms are glad to get the work, and depending on the relationship with the client, you can only push so much. After all, they are paying the bills and you work for them. Granted this is an oxymoron because firms/consultancies are trying to help their partners innovative and show them the value of design, however this is where the real lack of communication is. Innovation to a designer is much, much different than innovation to a marketing/sales driven client. So I would say that design needs to evolve to understand the posiition of the cost conscious client and work within that relam, along with generating concepts that push the boundaries of what the client is comfortable with.
And this goes back to my original post, this whole situation is compounded when you are not one of the “top” firms, and as a result clients view you as more on the executional side rather than the strategic side, and push their own agendas. I would argue that it is extremely difficult to change your clients/other clients percpetion of your organization. Not that I am not up for the challenge, but I get a strong sense that others in my firm dont share this goal of evolving (espescially top management). In this organization, top down rules and implementing new ideas is almost impossible. Its like having 2 clients, an internal one (mgmt) and the external one (client).
Needless to say I am looking for other opportunities, this one is on the way down.

Agreed - getting everyone on the same page (management, designer, and client) first is a must. Define innovation, and define any other terms that you use to qualify a good design. Once you’ve argued about it for awhile, you’ll come out with the ability to talk openly within the team. “A stitch in time…” kind of thing, something that saves you the trouble of arguing over the subjectivities of terms like “modern” every review.