Johnson is missing a trick with London identity contest
There is an all-too-familiar ring to the debacle over the London identity. Once more a prominent public authority has launched an ill-conceived contest, missing an opportunity to generate a great design and to show by example how effective design management can help build a positive culture in a cost-effective way.
The competition launched by London Mayor Boris Johnson is well founded. London needs a unified brand and it is admirable that he and his team are apparently looking to set the vision for London post-2012 to capitalise on the economic and social effects of the Olympics.
It is encouraging too that some designers have risen to the challenge in innovative ways. Take Moving Brands’ much-publicised bid to democratise its research for the project through Twitter and other social networks, with the help of Scott Thomas, who created the website for Barack Obama’s successful ‘public’ presidential campaign in the US.
But Johnson’s selection process is as flawed as that used for the Olympics identity itself. The open trawl and demand for 20 pieces of work as part of the submission suggest a lack of respect for designers and a total misunderstanding about how to run a pitch. Without an experienced design tsar in Johnson’s camp, it could end up with a committee decision and a mediocre result.
Creating an identity for London is likely to be an emotional affair. Do you go for the buildings and other icons, as Johnson Banks did for inward investment agency Think London some five years ago? Or do you take a more abstract theme, as Appetite did with its unfortunate children-based London logo that recalled the Ring a Ring o’Roses nursery rhyme symbolising plague?
London deserves an identity as powerful as that created by Spanish star Javier Mariscal for Barcelona in the 1990s. Equally important though is to create an exemplary procurement model for the public sector at large, and that would involve a significant change of tack.