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....and then there were three....

If structural engineering consultants were rock bands, the biggest album sales would go to stadium fillers such as Arup, Buro Happold, and Aecom, et al. However, up and coming indie rock band ING Design are making waves of their own, selling out the local venues, with their very own distinctive style of ‘up close and personal’ sounds, across the nation.

It may seem a little odd discussing structural consultancies using extended rock-band based metaphors. However, rock stars by their very nature push boundaries; they are innovative, creative and leave an indelible mark on our minds. If this is a yard stick by which rock bands can be measured then ING Design belong in the genre.

It has been six months since I last sat down with Ian, the equivalent of lead guitarist and front man of ING Design. He saunters over with a tray of interestingly named beers – Eternal, Uprising, Little Faith, & Revolution – I look around and take in our surroundings; an old, converted mill of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I remember that Ian believes in the old adage, “everything happens for a reason”. It seems apt that we find ourselves in this place, modern and chic but refusing to forego its roots – our location serving as a real-life embodiment of ING’s values.

Ian joins the table and so do the new band members:

Steven Wong – Bassist

Louai Kerfoot - Percussion

“The landscape is changing…” Ian says. ING Design are currently navigating a workload which is up 50% since this time last year and expanding like the ticket sales of a newly announced tour, “the trouble we are having is trying to grow whilst doing quotations, understanding the changes to the market and society, fielding the business as usual and letting the band try to evolve”.

I take a sip of the Eternal ale and Ian looks proud as he leans back and introduces me, formally, to the new line up:

First up is Steven, two months into his tutelage and recently re-located to Manchester from Hong Kong via Australia, he already exudes self-confidence in his work and expresses great excitement in the upcoming projects he will be involved with:

“99% of my degree was theory but I’ve suddenly realised there was very little in the academic teaching that helps with the REAL job of a structural engineer”. Education has always been this way – too little practical knowledge. However, structural engineering really emphasizes the gap between the academic education and the practical career knowledge.

Next up is Louai, five months into the role, he clearly has a sense of hunger for what lies ahead, above, and beneath:

“I applied for a role with Aldi and essentially messed up the interview. On arriving home and somewhat deflated I was told about an opportunity with ING Design; the rest, as they say, is fast becoming history”.

Listening to Louai’s story, Ian leans forward – his posture a little more contemplative than his usual demeanor, “I feel like I need closure on Charlotte”.

Ian had flown solo for eight years before meeting Charlotte at Bradshaw Gass & Hope. Taking a trainee under his wing he suddenly had an employee, and the future was looking promising:

“Thirteen months into her role everything was going great. She had changed a lot of my opinions and had given me a different outlook on what was a pending retirement…there is a substantial emotional investment…” Ian’s long pause is not for dramatic effect, it’s a genuine rewind to one moment, “On the Friday she was off work and had called in ill. On Monday the same, but then on the Tuesday the college called and advised me that Charlotte would be leaving ING Design and wanted no more contact”. Ian picks up the story with deep reflection, “I actually cried at that point, something had clearly gone very wrong, and I honestly couldn’t, at that point, get my head round it”.

When I first met them there was a chemistry there, so her sudden departure could have been a setback, but Ian sees this as a learning curve; he has no hard feelings on the situation but does hope for closure one day.

Outside, the skies clear a little and the windows of the dimly lit bar are brightened by the lighter side of the moon. A reflective mood falls over the table, but it is clear to me that Charlotte’s departure brought ING Design to its knees momentarily. However now there is some new growth sprouting on the branch and ING Design are taking this time to re-evaluate and revitalize itself.

“As a business we do have our eyes on someone else…” A new backing vocalist, I wonder? “A draughtsman who can solve a problem and we are very keen to get him into the business”. Ian continues, “I love what I do. Retirement gives options in external life but now it is going so well I want the business to be equipped with the right tools to handle the future”.

For ING Design to overcome their first obstacle and come out of the other side with a team of three, and a potential fourth further down the line, you can see the foundations of the band forming. Both Louai and Stephen seem to feed Ian’s energy and as a result the business is in a strong position where they can work on projects with stability combining Ian’s experience with the youthful exuberance of the two fledgling Engineers.

Stephen has been on an exciting and challenging journey to make it to ING Design, born and raised in Hong Kong, and studying for his degree in Sydney, Australia. He says to me, “Ian is tolerant. He is understanding and the experience he has given me I enjoy immensely”. Louai nods in agreement, Ian has given them both the opportunity to be allowed to make the mistakes Ian once made: “I let them both loose on Wiki – a 3D jigsaw of a building. The philosophy behind it applies to everything we do. If we could hide all the structure, we would, but we cannot so the moment you understand the fundamental aspects of it you start to understand how to make it aesthetically pleasing”.

As I watch them talk about the projects, the philosophies, and the problems they must solve, and hear them laugh at the anecdotes about calculation snafus, one thing becomes clear: ING Design has rhythm. The stream of work, meeting of minds and common enthusiasm all appear to work in seamless harmony. ING Design’s front man, Ian, has overcome the trials and tribulations of employing staff, he has grown spiritually as a leader and as a human being and as their second album is on the brink of release this new line up are charting a course to success.

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