Government in free-pitch storm

NEWS – The Government is under fire because its Department for Education and Employment is holding a free creative pitch for the design of a new corporate identity.

NEWS

The Government is under fire because its Department for Education and Employment is holding a free creative pitch for the design of a new corporate identity.

Labour MP and co-chairman of the All Party Group on Design Mark Fisher is to call on Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard to explain her department’s “extraordinary behaviour”. He says: “It’s bad and unprofessional and sets an extremely bad example to the rest of the public sector and to the private sector. This Government just does not understand design.”

The department, newly merged by John Major this summer, is believed to have invited eight groups to tender for its new identity.

The tender calls for consultancies pitching to supply logos, a letterhead, compliment slip and business card, press notice paper, examples of full colour and black and white publication covers, a conference/launch backdrop and an example of signage.

At least two of the groups invited to pitch, Pentagram and Lloyd Northover Citigate, have refused because it is a free creative pitch. Siegel & Gale declines to confirm if it has been invited to tender but says it will not free-pitch. Nucleus Design and The Jenkins Group both decline to comment, but it is believed both have been approached.

Pentagram partner David Hillman estimates a reasonable cost of producing all the designs the pitch requires as 20 000. He says: “It’s outrageous. You have a Government minister, Michael Heseltine, saying free-pitching is bad and here’s a Government department doing it.”

Hillman adds: “They want the whole job finished. Anybody taking this on will be out of their tiny minds. This is a big test for the Design Council – to see how sharp its teeth are.”

The Design Council chief executive Andrew Summers refuses to condemn the DFEE’s tactics. However, he does say: “It would not be in any way something the council would support. It appears to be unprofessional.”

Lloyd Northover Citigate’s managing director Myles Dacre says the consultancy has had a “long and good” relationship with the former Department for Education. “But we declined to be involved. We feel strongly it is the wrong approach. We believe the internal design managers have been over-ruled on this, from as high up as ministerial levels.

The tender invitation contains an admission that: “Ministers have gone on record to signal that design costs of developing the new corporate identity must be reasonable and show good value for money. Ministers do not wish to have to defend excessive spending at the despatch box.”

A DFEE spokeswoman says: “The department’s established procedure, in keeping with other departments, is not to pay for design visuals when going out to tender. The majority of design companies have been quite happy to work under these procedures.”

Design Business Association chairman Jonathan Sands, managing director of Leeds group Elmwood, says the news of the free-pitch is “really frustrating. It is very disappointing that a Government body should be doing this. It’s absolutely dreadful”.

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