The Design Business Association and the Chartered Society of Designers have both responded vociferously to free pitching, following the recent revelations reported in Design Week.
Transport for London is currently running an open competition to design a new bus for London. While the top three ideas will receive prize money totalling £45 000, none of the other entrants will be paid for their work.
‘Designers will want the prestige of having their name attached to the new iconic bus for London,’ TfL director of surface transport David Brown told Design Week by way of justification at the launch of the competition on 4 July.
The DBA says it wrote to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson ‘on this issue’ last week. ‘The Mayor has been illadvised on this,’ says DBA chief executive Deborah Dawton. ‘Both the DBA and CSD have extensive experience in running competitions that meet industry requirements.
This one is so far off the mark we’d have to go back to the starting grid. Prize money of £25 000 goes nowhere near covering the design investment.’ She continues, ‘I think we’d all rather travel on a bus that was designed by someone qualified to do it.’
Dawton criticises the tender for not containing enough detail on what will happen to the designs once they are submitted to TfL. The transport body maintains, ‘The best ideas will be taken to the major bus manufacturers as part of a separate competitive tendering process for the detailed design, prototyping and manufacture of the new bus.’
CSD chief executive Frank Peters is calling on the Design Council to take a lead in stamping out malpractice. In a letter published in this week’s Design Week (see page 11), he urges the Design Council to ‘educate clients away from such practice. As a Government body, they should be wellplaced to ensure that no Government department adopts this practice [of free pitching]’. Meanwhile, Kingston Council has received at least two letters of complaint from designers angered by its unpaid tender to fill its graphics roster.
The latest, from Watershed Design managing director Paul Widdup, argues, ‘If you are tendering for accountancy services you would not ask them for an audit to prove their credibility.’ Kingston Council wrote back to Widdup, claiming that, ‘The council is not seeking “free” design work. To identify the most suitable candidates we need to be able to establish the quality of services that potential partners can provide and the value for money they can offer taxpayers. Our experience of procurement is that businesses are well versed with tender processes and see it as an opportunity to win work and develop their client base.’
Dawton believes that getting public bodies to observe best practice would be a major achievement.
‘A commitment from Government to drive up best practice in [its] procurement of design would benefit the whole country in one fell swoop,’ she says, adding, ‘Why should small commercial businesses subsidise it in this way?’ The DBA intends to start showcasing examples of best practice on its website. ‘We hadn’t thought about doing that before now,’ says Dawton.
A CALL FOR ACTION
• Chartered Society of Designers is urging the Design Council to educate Government on free pitching
• Design Business Association is calling on the Mayor of London to reorganise the London bus design competition
• DBA aims to start showcasing examples of best practice