A Tory MP embroiled in a row about the value of identity design for Government clients has reiterated his opinion that some of the work should not be given to designers.
Referring to an identity commissioned by the NHS to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Greg Hands, MP for Hammersmith and Fulham and Shadow Treasury Minister, told Design Week, ‘It’s a matter of what’s appropriate. There are obviously instances when it makes sense to turn to the professionals, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them.’
Hands was originally quoted in an article published by The Times on 26 December 2009 on the amount of money the Government spends on identity design. Referring to the NHS identity, which cost £12 000, he told The Times, ‘Surely adding two digits doesn’t need to be outsourced at all. Civil servants can do this themselves.’
He added, ‘Modern graphic design [software] packages surely allow anyone with an average brain to design something as good as, or better than, what we see in front of us here.’ Speaking to DW, Hands says, ‘No one is questioning the value of good design, but some of this public-sector work shouldn’t be commissioned. No patients benefited from the NHS anniversary logo and the end result was hardly inspirational.’
The article and Hands’s original comments met with outcry from the design industry. The Design Assembly collective wrote an open letter to Hands and The Times about what it said were ‘insulting and unfair’ claims in the piece.
Matt Judge, co-founder of Design Assembly, says, ‘This sort of thing happens again and again in the press. It was the same with the 2012 Olympics logo. Not once did I read anything [then] that criticised the commissioning body – it was all about the consultancy.’
Judge adds, ‘I guess what is really frustrating is that there doesn’t seem to be any voice for designers – no trade union or response system. That’swhy we felt compelled as a collective to act.’
Emily Campbell, director of design for the Royal Society of Arts, says, ‘The Times makes puerile sport of a series of branding exercises, but I have not doubt that in most cases the designers billed a fair wage for what they were asked to do.’
She adds, ‘The point is what they were asked to do. The person who asked for a “brand refresh” sounds a lot sillier to me than the designer whosupplied it. Civil servants need to get better at this – at identifying a genuine design opportunity, articulating what they like, want and need from the solution, and understanding what design is and isn’t for.’
SOME PROJECTS HIGHLIGHTED IN THE TIMES
- An identity for the Department for Communities and Local Government, created by The Team for £3,860
- Brand development and a new DCLG logo, created by Bell Design for £24,764.99
- An identity for DCLG scheme Home Buy, created by advertising agency Chick Smith Trott for £21,090