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Sainsbury Design: Angela Driver

Depth of knowledge and client relationships set this agency apart

Monique Verduyn

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Angela Driver of Sainsbury Design

Self-made industrialist and sales expertThomas Watson believed that good design is good business. It’s a principle thatAngela Driver, MD of Sainsbury Design, lives by.

Driver, a graphic designer by training, hadbeen working for Sainsbury for nine years when, in 2000, owner Joan Sainsburydecided that it was time to retire. “I enjoyed being at the company and I hadworked my way up to client management,” Driver recalls. “The next step wouldhave been to open my own business, so the timing was serendipitous. The factthat Sainsbury had been around since 1975 was a definite plus as it was a wellestablished business with a solid client base.” Driver secured a bank loan and bought theagency for several hundred thousand rands. Today its annual turnover is in theregion of R7 million and its 40-strong client base includes brands like Nestlé,Kellogg’s and Nampak Tissue. Her initial goals were to grow thebusiness, become more specialised in packaging design and point-of-sale, andintroduce a spirit of innovation and energy. When Driver took over she quicklystreamlined operations by implementing a realtime system that manages jobs,time, workflows, archiving and costing. Along the way, the company has built strongclient relationships, a factor that helped to pull it through a tough period in2003 when new business prospects were slow. “One of the biggest challenges for abusiness owner is to keep things going during good times and bad,” says Driver.“You cannot be lavish when it’s going well. You have to keep pushing for newopportunities every day.” What has differentiated the design businessfrom its competitors is its focus on packaging. “Because we are specialists inthis area, we have developed a thorough understanding of client requirementsand the technical aspects of packaging.”

When it comes to purchasing a product, thepackaging it comes in is a vital tool for communicating brand identity.Packaging and brand design play a key role in the marketing mix. Designers needthe ability to develop marketable ideas and translate design concepts intothree-dimensional packages of all shapes and sizes. They must also be in tunewith today’s market and knowledgeable about competitive strategies tocommunicate the essence of a consumer brand, product, or service over a widevariety of mediums. “It’s vital to understand consumerbehaviour, design trends, and evolving aesthetics. My team spends a greatamount of time researching the market.” Driver says she employs people on the basisof personality and attitude. “Skills are important, but they can be taught andenhanced. When you have a small business, you cannot afford to have people whoclash with the culture.” Driver is positive about the future,although she notes that design is a bloodthirsty industry. “Lots of one-manbands have popped up, but sustainability is always an issue, as is the factthat they cannot compete with an agency that offers client services, aproduction department and a full creative team. At the same time ad agencieshave started in-house design studios that are not specialised enough to reallybring value to the client.” Sainsbury’s focus has up to now been FMCGspecific, and the company has a weekly feature on Fastmoving.co.za as part ofits marketing drive. The retail and automotive sectors offer future potential. Driver says she would like to do forsomeone what Joan Sainsbury did for her. “It would give me a great sense ofachievement to be able to one day hand over a business that comes with a longand successful history.”  Contact: +27 11 656 0991/2; www.sainsbury.co.za

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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