Less is more for CDT and its DCMS identity

What a pleasure it must be for CDT Design to see the new identity for the Department for Culture Media and Sport hit the street (see News Analysis, page 8), especially as 17 months’ work and long consultations with Government ministers and civil servants have gone into the project.

It’s too soon for the identity to really show its worth, but at first sight it looks very promising. The simple, elegant design has a rigour that straddles traditional and modern. Its vibrancy reflects the diverse activities the small department handles in a lively way, but it it is neither “fashionable” nor designed to shock. And judging by the very few applications we’ve seen so far, it works well.

Equally important, given the Government has to be publicly accountable, the DCMS looks set to save money with its new image. The decision to create diversity through use of a palette of single colours will pay off handsomely, we’re told, being much less expensive to print than the existing coat of arms identity, which is barely distinguishable from other Government departments’ logos.

The DCMS saga echoes that behind the BBC identity created by Martin Lambie-Nairn last year. Press leaks well ahead of the launch caused hackles to rise amid claims of public money being squandered. In both instances, the client kept cool – in the case of the DCMS project the unswerving support of Culture Secretary Chris Smith helped win the day for the designers.

The BBC’s new identity, born of the need to create coherence across the organisation and save costs, has proved itself on both counts, according to design head Tony Key. We look forward to confirmation that CDT’s work has achieved similar goals.

Both organisations will inevitably fly the flag for design, but the DCMS has a special job to do. As the first major commitment to design by Government since Tony Blair moved to Downing Street, it has to prove design’s effectiveness to an often sceptical Civil Service. It must create an example for other departments to follow, particularly the other three involved in a Design Council initiative led by Jane Priestman (DW 22 January). And the Government will want it to provide ammunition to counter taunts that Blair’s team is concerned with style over content.

It’s a tall order, but there’s confidence around Smith’s office and CDT that the DCMS identity will make its mark. It merits our respect as a design, but with the Civil Service purported to spend 24bn a year on goods and services including design, the industry’s support is vital.

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