JWT Launches Design Division

Looking to expand its offerings and generate revenue from nontraditional sources, WPP Group’s J. Walter Thompson is launching thompsondesign.

The design unit opens this week with three staffers. Longtime JWT client Diamond Trading Co. in London, formerly De Beers, has signed up for corporate branding and consumer ID work.

The unit will handle logo design, corporate ID and packaging. It will have “the spirit of a startup” and service existing JWT accounts and new clients that might be seen as too small for JWT, said Marc B. Capra, COO of the agency’s New York office.

Alicia Tremaine, 40, a senior partner at JWT New York, heads up the division as business director. Kristina Backlund, 35, and Philip Kelly, 39, are its creative directors. Tremaine has been with JWT for a decade and previously was director of the print production studio.

The plan is to “solicit smaller clients that would normally be intimidated by such a large agency,” according to Tremaine. That would include companies in industries such as fashion and jewelry.

WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, Havas’ Arnold and Interpublic’s Mullen have all added design units in recent years. Fallon pioneered the trend in 1984 with Duffy Design.

Creating a “nimble entity that doesn’t have the baggage that the mother ship has” will enable JWT to work for smaller clients in a profitable way, said Chris Colbert, a Boston-area consultant.