Three questions—
On the role of design

Border with Sedum and Eupatorium

Fredrik Jönsson
30 Sep 2023

2 min read

We speak to Andy Ellis, managing director of London-based costs lawyers Practico, about the role of design in business development and daily operations.

All Things Are: Some twelve years ago, we met in Hamburg to discuss how to rebrand your business under a new name. A few weeks later, we helped launch Practico – now firmly established as the leading costs consultancy in the UK. To what degree did the design process back then help you get started on this journey?

Andy Ellis: In 2011 we had just crystallised a difficult business ‘divorce’ and the design process was important in capturing and expressing the positive aspects of change and growth. Travelling to Hamburg had the beneficial effects of a retreat and a reboot for the Company; allowed us to boil down what made us different and to isolate where our market should be.

A new name, a new logo and a fresher online presence were the deliverables but the process was deeper than that and its effect has been long-lasting.

Practico were always early adopters of new technology. You were quick to migrate to the cloud and started using collaborative project management applications early on. You also co-founded pioneering costs budgeting tool Feesability, and generally seem to stay ahead of other players. How does design influence your choice of products and services?

We got into cloud technology initially because a private cloud solution for email (hosted Microsoft Exchange) seemed safer than budget on-premise servers that were high maintenance. If it’s true that small teams can just go and not become wrapped up in hefty installation projects then our size helped us to recognise that we could leverage enterprise-quality applications once SAAS started to emerge.

It is no coincidence that the applications that we have stuck with and invested more in have an elegant uncluttered design (e.g. Harvest, ClickUp and Dropbox for Business). Conversely when we are forced commercially down the road of software where design principles have not been baked in (I’m looking at you Mimecast and iManage) it grates and we try not to ‘live in it’.

You have invested in design over the years; for example, by introducing improved ways of visualising and presenting data to clients. What role does design, in its broadest sense, have in your company today?

We would like to have pushed further with data visualisation, but it remains something of a slow burner in our industry. But we are meticulous about the design of our reports to clients. We like them to recognise that it is a Practico report whether our name is in it or not.