Since London Mayor Boris Johnson took office earlier this year he has shown no interest in design. While his predecessor Ken Livingstone hailed the creative industries as being as key to the culture and international importance of the UK capital as the financial sector, he has said nothing of its worth.
With details emerging of his design advisory group, Johnson might have ended his silence and outlined design’s role in addressing some of London’s concerns (see News, page 3). Transport, crime and the opportunities afforded by the 2012 Olympic Games suggest themselves for starters.
But, indications are that the panel will comprise only architects, who, however eminent, don’t reach the corners designers do. They are professionals of vision who embrace the bigger picture, but so, too, are designers, and they have a deeper affinity with ordinary people.
So, who might serve the Mayor? For transport issues, Johnson might talk to Priestman Goode and Seymour Powell, both of which are capable of devising strategies for systems as well as designing vehicles, ticketing devices and so on. On crime, Sebastian Conran and Michael Wolff are among those taking a lead in the Design Council/Central St Martins College of Art and Design initiative Design Against Crime.
The Olympics, meanwhile, throw up great opportunities to boost London as a hub for business and tourism. Internationally renowned designers like Ron Arad and David Collins could advise on hotels and restaurants say, Rasshied Din on retail and Casson Mann on creating exhibitions of enduring quality. Digital talents such as All of Us, Digit and Poke are London-based and Applied Information Group has carved a niche for itself in wayfinding, not least through the Legible London project.
Any of these would be obvious choices to advise the Mayor, and there are many more. If he just looked to the Royal Designers for Industry for support, he couldn’t go far wrong.
Let’s hope the panel is just a starting point and that Johnson will bring design into the fold soon.