Time to promote UK capital as design centre

There were no dissenting voices at last week’s Pan-European Brand Design Association congress when PDA president Gérard Caron described London as “the famous capital of European design”.

There were no dissenting voices at last week’s Pan-European Brand Design Association congress when PDA president Gérard Caron described London as “the famous capital of European design”. Perhaps the predominantly Continental audience was too polite to comment on the merits of the host city for the PDA event.

Or you could say that, speaking to folk focused largely on branding, Caron was spot on. Also that as president of Paris-based design supergroup Carré Noir, he recognises the wealth of creative talent here and the strategic strengths of top UK branding groups. We don’t have the monopoly on producing great design, but we’re up there with Europe’s best.

Would that London could claim supremacy in design in the way Glasgow will be poised to when it assumes the title City of Architecture and Design in 1999. How fantastic to see initiatives emanating from a body dedicated to promoting good design through action.

How great it would be if London had an identity to be proud of, something as appropriate and spirited as Javier Mariscal’s image for the Catalan capital Barcelona. Beresford’s cutesy corona of dancing figures has neither the power of Mariscal’s work nor the directness of New York’s unforgettable slogan, and comes across as yet another missed opportunity.

London has some great contemporary design – a whole spate of new restaurants, some lively museum attractions and a thriving fashion industry on show in the slicker shop designs. But design is hardly part of the culture in a city where amenities such as transport are costly and unreliable and we don’t make the best of our assets such as the River Thames.

Much debate is going on between groups and politicians bent on improving London’s lot, and design has its champions in the talks. But isn’t it time for action, the first move being to establish a body for London with design close to its core? What better use for a bit of Millennium cash?

Latest articles