Yet another opportunity has been missed for design to show through creative excellence how it can help to shape an organisation’s proposition – and for a high-profile enterprise to shine as a champion of good design management. I am talking about the contentious contest to brand London 2012, the capital’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, which comes under fire this week from one of design’s leading players.
Johnson Banks creative director and British Design & Art Direction president Michael Johnson was one of three design industry judges, alongside Design Council director of design and innovation Richard Eisermann and Design Museum director Alice Rawsthorn, in what appears to have been a free-for-all. So bad was the experience that he reportedly chose not to be photographed as a judge in the official line-up.
Johnson contends that not only had the 1100 entries been whittled down to seven by London 2012 marketing director David Magliano before the formal judging, but during the process mediocrity prevailed with non-design judges dominating. This is no way to get the best identity for such an important bid, nor to ensure that the chosen design will be workable across all platforms and Johnson is right to question the outcome. Why bring in experts if you are not going to use them effectively?
The warning bells were sounded at the outset of the contest. When the organisers approached Design Week for support for what was then a blatant free pitch – just a couple of days ahead of the pitch announcement – they were denied until they had discussed terms with the Design Business Association.
That conversation took place and adjustments were made to the procedures, resulting in a two-stage competition with payment for serious contenders, albeit a pittance (DW 18 September).
But in the event, true respect for design’s ethical stance was lacking, while the agencies involved in the advertising pitch were treated according to their code of conduct. Consultancies were asked to pitch four ideas for free, the first-stage selection was carried out by London 2012’s marketing folk and lay judges were brought in to make professional decisions. To cap it all, all addressees were listed on the e-mail sent to inform consultancies that they were only one of the favoured seven if they had already heard from organisation.
We hope the bid succeeds, but that London 2012 conducts its main business in a less shambolic way than it has handled the identity contest. Otherwise, effort will be wasted as it was at the ill-fated Millennium Dome, where appalling design management was one of many problems, when exemplary policies could have been a mark of success.