McKinsey for the Right-Brainers?
December 4, 2011 4:35 AM   Subscribe

McKinsey for the creative type - Are there firms which do 'creative consulting'?

Consulting firms likeMcKinsey, BCG, Bain all look for the mathematical/analytical type..

But what's the equivalent for the creative type? I'm thinking of advertising companies, but aside from them, are there other companies who look for people who are interested in making ideas for innovation, and creative solutions for problems?

Is there such a thing as 'creative consulting'? Any multinationals who are at it? Am currently based in Asia, and it would be lovely if they have a Singapore office.

..and if there's none like them, do you have any good suggestions for a career starter who wants to jump into a creative career? All suggestions welcome.

Thank you very much!!
posted by vastopenspaces to Work & Money (15 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
a big one is IDEO

I don't know much about this subject, looking forward to what others know of.
posted by victory_laser at 5:03 AM on December 4, 2011

Frog Design


there are several others as well...
posted by zia at 5:04 AM on December 4, 2011

You're probably still looking for design and maybe even advertising companies overall, just of a particular type, method or ideology. Note that you may not necessarily be involved in the specific "advertising" part of a project. These companies sometimes go from specifying product colors and materials to designing packaging, logos, and ads; basically just about everything short of actually coming up with the core idea for a product.

They're not really classified too differently, though the bigger ones will likely be referred to as an "agency" rather than say "studio." They mostly become known from their work, and you're going to just have to spend some time looking at them, what they do, and how they do it. You're not really giving much to work with(experience, interests, etc.) but I think what you want might be along the lines of IDEO(who do have a Singapore office, incidentally). There are definitely others, but I'm a little blank right now. You might also look around specifically in the area of "product development" agencies; I don't know them very well.
posted by Su at 5:06 AM on December 4, 2011

You also might want to look at qualitative research agencies. They focus on creative approaches to the business-problem-solving side of what firms like McKinsey and Bain do: product development, ad and PR testing, packaging and manuals testing, product improvements, brand definitions and brand extensions, etc.

ESOMAR has global job listings, though you may want to look at some educational options first...since a designer doesn't have the skills to be a quali right off the blocks (above the graduate-entrant level, you'd be expected to have the basics of qualitative research theory and practice down before being considered for most roles, even in agencies that say they've thrown tradition to the wind). The #MRX and #newmr tags on Twitter are both quite active and will give you some idea of current developments and "hot topics".
posted by Wylla at 5:24 AM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Art. Lebedev Studio does pretty much much anything design related.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:34 AM on December 4, 2011

Management consultancy agencies take people from a variety of different backgrounds providing they can pass some hard interviews and admissions tests. With creative agencies the route to get in is normally different; turning up at the door of - say - IDEO and merely proclaiming that you are "creative" or that you are a "designer" will not get you any further. Instead you must normally have studied in particular specialism - usually at a postgraduate level. You must also have a great portfolio of your work - and they will want evidence that you can understand and work with other specialists in a team. Have a look at the profiles of those who are working for such places.

I would also recommend you consider engineering consultancies, R&D facilities for large companies, advertising agencies and the like.
posted by rongorongo at 5:44 AM on December 4, 2011

Doblin Group (Jay Doblin started the approach that IDEO et al now espouse)

Jump Associates

Stone Yamashita

Check out Coroflot for strategic design, design planning and other such listings

As rongorongo mentions, sometimes a particular field of study helps, I am biased in my recommendation but the Institute of Design's MDM program and MDes in innovation planning are a one year and a two year Master degree program respectively - key personnel in IDEO's transformation design group, Jump Associates et al are all alums
posted by infini at 5:56 AM on December 4, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thank you so much for your insights! I am now looking through all the links.

OK, just some background to work with:

I just graduated fresh from college with a degree in the social sciences (Human Geography to be exact), and I am currently employed in a very technical job. I was inclined to the visual arts since I was young, and I have a fair amount of graphic design and branding experience, doing both paid and unpaid freelance work on the sides. I am also fascinated with stories and ideas. I particularly enjoy brainstorming activities, doing presentations, problem solving, and the like. I took my college degree to satisfy my curiosity about the world, and I liked my undergrad years so much because it has given me a good background on research, fieldwork, and different things concerning the world, societies, etc. The only thing about it is that unlike other college degrees, geography doesn't have a clear-cut path for its graduates.

I did the technical/routine job because I was afraid that making a living out of my creative side would exhaust me. Obviously, it didn't turn out well as I'm looking for a very early career change right now.

Bottomline is, I am looking for a job that would allow me to work with ideas. One side of me wants to work in an advertising-type agency, but I'd also like to see if I can merge it with my undergraduate degree and geeky pursuits - some job which would involve creative solutions for problems.

One more consideration though: it's been less than a year since I finished my degree, and I have less than half a year experience in my current job. I'm wondering if there are agencies which are willing to take the younger and more inexperienced, but highly interested and curious ones. I agree with rongorongo's post, that agencies need some proof that one is 'creative', and I might not have enough to show given my youth.
posted by vastopenspaces at 6:30 AM on December 4, 2011

I can't speak to the design side of this, but in your position, if you were looking at qualitative research, you'd be looking at Research Executive level positions, which don't require much advance education other than what you already have (a social sciences degree is good preparation) and some basic reading and prep before interviews.

An RE role will not get you into a decision-making position right away, but it will get you on a fast training track to advance while you learn basic research skills. In a smaller agency or team, you will be exposed to the entire research and consultancy process (with the possible exception of pitching for business) right away.

Because of your degree, you may even be able to join your local research association and/or ESOMAR right away (using your degree as a qualification), and I'd highly recommend that as a source of both discounted or free training and job leads if this is a route you are interested in.
posted by Wylla at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great. Because of this thread, I am now considering qualitative market research, along with the other creative options. Initially I thought that market research is really just about numbers (statistics, which I'm not really good friends with).

Any good qualitative market research firms, then? (Did my homework a bit and Flamingo sounds cool.)

I see that there may be professionals here in the MR industry, I wonder if you know of any small-medium global agencies which may be open to my profile?
posted by vastopenspaces at 7:27 AM on December 4, 2011

"Innosight is a global innovation and strategy consulting firm.

"We collaborate with the world’s leading companies to devise growth strategies, build innovation capabilities, and create products and services that improve people’s lives."

Not sure they fit you now, but they're really interesting.
posted by maurreen at 8:04 AM on December 4, 2011

Another one is Continuum (used to be called Design Continuum). They designed the new carts at Target! I got to visit them once, they told an interesting story about working with Master Lock. Master Lock wanted their locks to look stronger than all the other locks when displayed in a store, and these guys looked at lots of different options for doing this. Their solution was really cool: after doing lots of experiments and studies, it turned out when people are evaluating a lock, they look at the KEY. If the key is a cheap piece of sheet metal, they think the lock must not be very good. But if they key is larger and heavier, the subconscious implication is that the lock is strong. So all Master Lock had to do was put some cheap rugged-looking plastic cladding over their keys and feature them prominently in the packaging! Very small investment, big increase in sales.
posted by steveminutillo at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Continuum always has interesting qual research stories (or user research as its more commonly called in design) - Harry West, one of their VPs gave a presentation once on how they were working on redesign of shower heads for a client and ended up having a meeting in a shower (so they could demonstrate the ways people stand under the water).

TNS Global is one of the big players in market research that I can think off top of mind.
posted by infini at 6:11 PM on December 4, 2011

TNS is gigantic - may not be what you are looking for as they are not quali specialists.

The QRCA and the AQR - the purely qualitative trade bodies - are good places to look for listings initially - I would think seriously about joining the QRCA if you can. The job boards of the professional associations are in general the best places to look...and be aware that many ads are from recruiters, because many small agencies use them in the absence of a large HR team.
posted by Wylla at 11:46 PM on December 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you very much Mefites!

I am now in the process of discovering new career paths for me, and I am sure that greater changes will happen in the coming year. All these advice are so valuable.


So to sum up, for the creative-brained people, there are still many branches of 'creative work' to choose from, namely:

1. The usual path: Advertising, art directing, etc.
2. Product development/innovation consulting: ie, Innnosight, Ideo, Continuum, etc
3. Qualitative Market research, where you have to employ curious questions and new ways of thinking to come up with market solutions
4... I guess there are a whole lot more!

My impressions are that the first one would be for visuals, second one for the tactile, and the third for the language-wordy creative type.
posted by vastopenspaces at 4:12 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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