DTI gives boost to Government design buying

The Department of Trade and Industry has pledged to make the Government a ‘more intelligent customer’ when buying products and services, signalling a boost for design-friendly purchasing.

New guidelines are expected to introduce ‘life-cycle’ assessments of cost, which should favour better-designed proposals. Despite ‘best value’ procurement rules, valuable Government contracts are currently often awarded to the lowest cost ‘tender’.

The Office of Government Commerce is taking the lead in fostering best practice as part of Competing in the Global Economy: The Innovation Challenge, a DTI report published just before Christmas. Pilot projects in the Department of Health will promote innovative hospital design and greater use of tele-medicine.

The report also commends the work of the Design Council with its design demonstrations programme, as well as the Kit for Purpose initiative on procurement in schools.

But former creative director of COI Communications Roland Unwin, now visual communications manager at charity Cafod, thinks Government has some way to go in practising what it preaches.

‘Government is a large and unwieldy machine and it is vital for the DTI to ensure the message is clearly received and understood by officials,’ he says.

According to Unwin, ‘It’s all very well to spout this kind of stuff, but if it doesn’t get translated in positive action by people at the coal-face who actually procure and brief designers, then it will be a waste of time and effort.’

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