Transport for London has this week contradicted industry claims that it has downgraded its design function and is arguing that it is increasing its importance.
The announcement follows news that TfL lost its design chief last month when Corynne Bredin ‘chose to leave’. She had been acting head of design for 13 months.
‘Over the past few years specialist design resources have been greatly reduced, with no specifically design-qualified director or head of design replacement confirmed into a permanent position,’ says Bredin.
Bredin took over from head of design Christopher Nell, who left when he felt that the design function had lost importance at the then London Transport in March 2000. He said at the time, ‘Clearly design was no longer an area [it] respected.’
However, TfL claims it has increased the scale and authority of its most senior design position and broadened the remit.
According to TfL general manager of marketing communications and corporate design Charlie Edelman, the design brief now includes signs, information development and print production, which means wider responsibilities, more staff and an increase in spending from £350 000 to £7m (for the period April 2001 to March 2002).
The head of design title has become obsolete. The authority is trying to recruit a corporate design and production manager for a £40 000 salary, which somewhat undermines the way designers view the position. Increased responsibilities for production suggests a role more concerned with implementation than strategic input, sources contend.
TfL’s design unit was amalgamated with the advertising and publicity units last August.
Edelman says, ‘TfL is a new organisation. Design is part of a bigger group with a wider remit and more responsibility.
‘We are looking forwards not backwards.’