Time to demonstrate just how good we are

So we have yet another new “political” logo to ponder as the year draws to a close. There’s little we can say about the “identity” launched last Friday by Tony Blair to mark Britain’s six months’ presidency of the European Union. Though Newell and Sorrell steered its course, the logo featuring the 12 stars of European nation states, each illustrated to reflect that nation’s image, was created by children.

But we can comment on Government’s decision to make it so. The result has its charm, and it’s fascinating how Europe’s children view their cultures – note the Union flag writ large across the belly of Britain’s Teletubby-like star. But this can’t work seriously as an identity in the corporate sense. This is the stuff of the backdrop to a political platform, the T-shirt, the poster and the mug.

There is undoubted political mileage in using children – the future of Europe, as Blair would have it. And the exercise would have made a great schools competition, encouraging visual culture and sharing ideas about the national perceptions of very young people across Europe. But it isn’t great design. The logo marks another opportunity missed to show the wider world two of Europe’s best professional creative skills – identity and graphics.

Why is it that whenever European countries come together we celebrate with a naff identity? Take international sport: England’s 1966 World Cup Willie lion wasn’t a highspot of creativity, though born of a period of seminal design and innovation here, but nor, 30 years on, has France’s “chicken” logo for the 1998 contest any real design qualities. Even Cobi, the odd creature created by Javier Mariscal when Spain hosted the 1992 Olympics, is surely only cited as a classic because of the Spanish design master – a case of the emperor’s new clothes, or what?

We in the UK have another chance to show the Government how good we are at creating great design, this time in three dimensions. I speak of the Millennium Products initiative, organised by the Design Council and launched in September by Blair. The first tranche of nominations is due in January (DW 26 September), but examples televised for the launch did not bode well for design’s role in the initiative. There were some workable ideas, particularly from medical and voluntary sectors, but not enough evidence of good design.

We know the quality we’re capable of, particularly in product design. Maybe we don’t shout enough about it, with so much of our success being with overseas manufacturers. Let’s not miss this chance to show politicians that design represents much more than a photo-opportunity.

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