Tory MP questions need to outsource Government design

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
Hide Comments (18)Show Comments (18)
Comments
  • Mike Bell November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Well can he get some civil servants to do some set and exhibition design on my behalf too – it would save everyone money – there’s a free download of the software – so that means that anyone is capable…

  • a November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What does a MP know about design….they are all too busy spending large sums of tax payers money on themselves for pointless reasons.

    If these companies had the right people for the jobs to start of with then the wouldn’t be this money issue.

    If the government advertised design jobs to start off with they would get a good response from many talented designers out there which wouldn’t break the bank.

  • jon kemp November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Hmmm,….
    Why commission the logo refresh in the first place?… (I do think the NHS is something worth celebrating, though I doubt it will last another 60 years if Mr Hands and the rest of his breed gets their paws on it)!

    (re-software) Is he saying that Civil servants and designers have average brains? Design isn’t about the software Mr Hands its about the brain!

    Anyway £12,000 seems cheap compared to the expenses of the MPs. More design less Mps – will be cheaper for us all.

    Most of the time money is wasted by these people due hours of “move it up abit, not sure of the colour now, can we see version 52 again”.

    God save us from these idiots.

  • Ian Swift November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Twelve grand for adding two digits is a bit steep ! Someones laughing all the way to the bank! And if the person who commissioned it is willing to pay that then theye bloody stupid. Or maybe the backhander was sufficient . It all smells a bit funky.

  • Robbie P November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Need I say more… what a classic example of this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfprIxNfCjk

  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If the larger corporate brands including public sector agencies had formal contracts on a retainer basis with key design firms, then small projects for non commercial anniversary logo’s and the ilk could be supported by agencies cost efficiently or even pro bono as part of a good will commercial relationship – in much the same way as public and private sector brands do with their advertising agencies.
    Problems arise due to the piece meal approach to design caused by the procurement and job by job tendering procedures – where more money and time is invariably wasted through tendering than the value of the project itself.
    In relation to design services we hear the tendering procedure battle cry regularly – we hear it far less often for much higher contract values commissioned to advertising and PR agencies and other marketing services firms.

    And the same argument that has raged for two decades or more in the design sector comes full circle again. There exists a lack of formal appointment processes & accreditation and too many design firms side step formal best practice contracts in favour of good faith arrangements, free pitching and other casual approaches.
    The design sector does have representative bodies who, if design firms in the majority joined them, could speak and act with a louder voice and resolve the issues (as BDI does for industrial, service innovation and retail firms).
    But again, in the majority design firms do not join trade associations and yet band together in small numbers to try to gain a voice.

    The majority of national and regional trade bodies are not cost prohibitive.

    Yet it comes across as though most designers wish to be represented and their voices heard but are not prepared to formerly support and invest in such representation.

    Less than 10% of the design sector belong to a design trade association but 90% cry out for representation, a voice, new business support and their battles to be fought by others.
    It’s little wonder then that the design industry in general gets walked over – something that could be more easily curtailed if the majority stood up to be counted and formerly invested in their business and sector by joining a professional body or trade association be that regional or national.

  • Morag Malloy November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This is the same Tory party who last month touted a £1m prize for designing a website? http://ow.ly/R8f0
    Clearly they place no value on strategic design or creativity.

  • Lee Redpath November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    ‘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.’

    Well Mr Hands, I have a first aid kit in my cupboard, so does that make me a doctor?

    The software is only a tool to help visualise the ideas that we designers have. Perhaps Mr Hands should stick to what he knows, screwing the taxpayer with his expenses claims!

  • roger carpenter November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I have ben designing for years and to think I spent years and years training to design in the first place seems a waste of time. Perhaps the doctors should not train either as it seems that the govenment can ask one of their Civil servants to do the job as long as they have half a brain.

    But remembering all that has gone on in the past years as a tax payer do i think they have a brain the answer has to be not enough to even change a light bulb without help.

    I have to ask the question: How did he get his job without help of a designer doing his leaflets or did he do them himself?

  • roger carpenter November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I have ben designing for years and to think I spent years and years training to design in the first place seems a waste of time. Perhaps the doctors should not train either as it seems that the govenment can ask one of their Civil servants to do the job as long as they have half a brain.

    But remembering all that has gone on in the past years as a tax payer do i think they have a brain the answer has to be not enough to even change a light bulb without help.

    I have to ask the question: How did he get his job without help of a designer doing his leaflets or did he do them himself?

  • Phil Smithson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In one of my first jobs in the design industry my employer lost a local authority contract when the client decided to give each department Corel software instead of employing designers. I hoped that in the ensuing years we had moved on and come to value Britain’s creative industries. Indeed I am sure that in many respects that is the case. It has been years since I heard the attitude that there exists software that will make anyone a designer beyond the realm of home users “having a go” on their pc. I hope it gets the drislry reception it deserves now it has raised it’s head in the public arena once again.

  • Peers de Trense November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Shame on a Tory MP for not supporting the private sector. Who else does he think is going to get us out of the very deep s*** we are in? Surely his opinion goes against all that the party stands for. When is he going to learn that private individuals and businesses spend money much more wisely and efficiently than the State, that is if they are allowed to earn it in the first place.

  • Sam November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The Tory MPs comment is taken out of context. If you look at the NHS logo you will see what he means. I don’t think adding 60 to the NHS logo is worth £12,000. I don’t think anybody can design especially civil servants but there is no thought process gone into the NHS 60th anniversary logo. I don’t think the Tory MP is saying anybody can design, he is saying anybody could have designed the NHS 60th anniversary logo.

  • Gd'elle November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Cheers for that Greg. Perhaps you can use the person who designed that tie you’re wearing….?

  • Adam November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    We totally agree with the main points in the original letter. The design industry isn’t taken seriously. But this is largely because people don’t understand it. If we are to fix this we have to first understand that there are two sides to this story and that only together with clients will people like Greg realise he can’t do it himself.

    Here’s how http://bit.ly/7dVhgy

  • martyn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Torys, all crawling out of the woodwork now.

  • steve November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think that one of the issues here is that the clients themselves are very often so insensitive to the changes and improvements that are being made as part of the design process. I have had clients, as i’m sure most of you have, who seem to completely lack the ability to understand what they are asking you for, what it is about the previous one that requires change etc etc. The end result, after a process of arbitrary comments and abstract decision making, it seems to come down to the question – do I like it or not? Peoples livelihoods often rely on the successful commissioning and implimentation of design, so it’s no wonder that those with no idea of what they are buying will want to turn it in to what they already know and understand.

    When this end result is bland and ineffective, the client ends up frustrated that it doesn’t do the job, and worried at the criticism that may come there way, or they express the comfort they feel that their chosen direction won’t rock the boat, but the design company is seen as lacking creativity.

    You need to be well qualified to start out in design these days, and yet it seems you can commission and control the process with no idea at all. Isn’t it about time the design industry took it upon themselves to educate our clients better? Maybe then we could regain our consultancy status, rather than the meek service industry that it seems to be heading towards.

  • Gill Dalrymple November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Comment from MD of Bell Design, one of the design companies noted in the article. http://bit.ly/8B4Qkd

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

The NHS is using data to fight coronavirus

The UK’s health service has enlisted the help of some of the world’s tech giants to build a centralised data platform to provide NHS staff and practitioners with vital information