Olympics: designers being selected at random
Our naïve hopes that the 2012 Olympics might result in some landmark creative work were dealt another blow today with news that design studios are being selected at random to work on a project relating to the games...
After learning that its bid for design work with the Commission for Sustainable London 2012 relating to the sustainability of the games had been unsuccessful, Sparks Studios in London thought that it would try to find out why. A further enquiry prompted a response from CompeteFor (the organisation administering the tendering process via an online portal) revealing that a shortlist of suppliers had been "randomly" drawn up from those studios who "scored the highest mark in our questionnaire".
Back in February, the CSL 2012 (rather than the Olympic Delivery Authority, as we reported earlier) advertised for design and print services via CompeteFor. The CSL was established 'to help London 2012 organisers deliver the most sustainable Games to date, by providing independent assurance and expert commentary, direct to the Olympic Board'. Sparks submitted its portfolio (only three images are allowed) and filled out the questionnaire which asks for details on areas such as liability insurance and number of employees but nothing to do with how good your work might be. Yesterday the studio learnt that its bid had been unsuccessful. It scored 94% on the questionnaire, while the average score of shortlisted bidders was 100%. After enquiring further, the studio were emailed this explanation of the process by the adjudicators:
"Thank you for taking the time to respond to this opportunity. We had an overwhelming response from 245 organisations. Due to the number of high scoring responses we have short-listed a number of suppliers randomly from those who scored the highest mark in our questionnaire. This was done anonymously."
"We've applied for four or five projects this way, none successfully at this point," says Sparks' Michael Gough. "It's the most expedient way to get a shortlist, but this is the first time it's been a random selection."
What really surprised the studio was the admission that companies who had made the shortlist were chosen "randomly" from the top-scorers. "It's an absurd process for selecting suppliers," says Gough.
It seems that designers' suitability for working on one of the most high-profile projects in UK history rests, in this case, more on sheer luck and the ability to tick the right boxes than it does on their creative abilities. We suspected that the quality of 2012-related design was likely to be questionable, but should it really be a lottery?
This story has been updated since it was first published
Further update: The GLA has been in touch to ask us to point out that the specific experience of Sparks Studios in this case relates to the CSL 2012 and not to Olympic Delivery Authority contracts or to LOCOG, the two organisations responsible, respectively, for building and staging the Games. This post has been updated to reflect that. However, the ODA and LOCOG both use the CompeteFor site to manage the tender process for their contracts, including that for the design of the Olympic mascot.
Seems like a dangerous way to select..well, anything!
I guess if it were all to go tits up the Olympic Committee could just blame Fate rather than holding themselves responsible.
This is almost as daft as when I found out children were no longer allowed to compete against each other on sports day.
Think of smaller agencies who always come out badly in these tender situations, despite the strength of their creative.
They always comprise of thousands of irrelevant questions.
This is just ridiculous. When I tried to register with CompeteFor, it asked if we had an ISO Quality registration. When I ticked the No box, it threw me out of the registration form and said: sorry, without this, you can not compete for 2012 jobs. It said it had automatically passed on my details to my local Business Link office so they could contact me to help me get ISO:9000! How presumptuous is that.
It is shocking that design is being sacrificed in exchange for ticking boxes.
Terrible way of working, the point in tenders is that every company who applies has a fair chance, i.e. they will look at every submission in the same detail and choose the best agency for the job. Terrible way a working with what is, if i'm not mistaken essentially public money!
Ugly logo, ugly process!
I tendered to be a preferred supplier for a large company (who I was already supplying loads of work for - a four letter accountancy firm) and they turned me down because I couldn't agree to accept liability for any project that was not completed on the order of one fax. According to their contract I would have to have someone watching the fax machine 24 hours a day for job orders, they would assume I was producing the ordered work whether I confirmed receipt of a fax order or not. And if the work was not supplied I would be liable for every consequential cost.
These people who organise tenders they just don't care about the quality or the cost of the work. Oh and that logo - it's just an embarrassment to say that you come from the country where that was designed.
Competitiveness must be avoided at all costs, no questions asked, fair chance for all irrelevant of talent, YOU WILL CONFORM.
Reeks of New Labour rhetoric if you ask me.
I have some ideas for London 2012 logo. This is my best:
All the number could be formed by penis in different shapes and colours. But the "0" that could be done with the open mouth of someone important on the british high society. It must breath multiculturalism, must be fun, impactful.
Ideas are welcome.
It surely can't all be random though? Universal Everything have worked on the 2012 project -- it seems like an unlikely coincidence that one of the UK's most influential designers would be selected entirely at random...?
I'm impressed that Mr Roocroft described that 'thing' as a logo!.
oh dear this is not good news for the industry. suitability should be judged on talent alone. A one man team may have more ideas and originality than a hundred man team.
I thought the UK was leading the way creatively?
Where do I start? I share your dis-belief at how suppliers and CompeteFor are selecting agencies. A couple of months back, we too pitched for a design brief on CompeteFor and got through the first stage - fantastic. Our score was 100%, but so too was the average score. We didn't get the work, but when I asked for feedback, I was told "the supplier had so many agencies with 100%, they simply chose the first 10 alphabetically to take into the next round". What's all that about? We start with a 'z' so had no chance. Unbelievable.
The problem I believe, lies with CompeteFor. They wanted a process for agencies to pitch that took away the tedium of PQQ's, but in turn made it so easy to achieve a high score. To receive 100% is ridiculous. This then presents suppliers with an unenviable task - how do they choose from so many design agencies when they don't know who is good or not.
Until CompeteFor and their suppliers are educated in the way to appoint agencies through their competence, you'll be lucky to get a job… unless you're called AAAAAAAAArdvark Design!
And this is news? Why is anybody surprised by this? I don't suppose for one minute that anybody contacted CompeteFor before they wasted their time on huge long shot like this...
I think this is a typical response and the growing lack of how design is seen as important in this country. Marketing departments are overflowing with pencil pushing form fillers. This nation is known around the world for the arts and creativity. We are also a business nation, and a lot of those in the business world see design all pretty much the same... any logo will do, as long as it's trademarkable, and the domain name is free.
As for the logo, I still don't know what to say. Aesthetically it could be crafted better. Does it sum up GB and London 2012. I think its a case of designers doing what the client wants rather what they need. There is nothing clever about it, there is no idea.
Otl Aicher will be spinning in his grave.
From a sporting and cultural point of view it has been far too long since Britain held a major global sporting event but this sort of selection process will only be the first of number of mind numbingly absurd decisions made over the next 3 years.
I fully expect the opening ceremony to be the trashiest and most cliche ridden 3 hours of 'entertainment' in Olympic history headlined by the latest X Factor winner and Bryan May murdering 'We are the champions'. And the flame will fail to light. Guaranteed.
Maybe they should employ someone who knows the business and can evaluate each tender response, the sad thing is to even get to that stage you need to score enough points through form filling and box ticking. Speak to anyone in public services and you will find the same systems destroying morale, the police, education, and health service are being judged with similar systems of point scoring. May be should point score the politicians!
And to think the re directed all that money from the arts and social agencies.
Back to the pushups, the ultimate point scoring contests is but 3 years away.
The "thing", as Nick Kenyon calls it, must have been "designed" by an accountancy firm's 24hr fax machine watch person while hallucinating through sleep deprivation.
I don't know what the fuss is about.
What makes me sick is that if you question any element of the games - the processes by which things are done or don't want to get involved because you feel it will cause you and your business too much pain, you are somehow tainted as being unpatriotic. I call it being professional.
I totally agree with Paolo, the information you have to submit on CompeteFor is so short, so devoid of actual relevant information, it's all tickboxes, yes/no - no context or detail at all. No wonder loads of companies score very highly and they don't want to take all of them through to the next stage. The whole point of the PQQ process is to only take companies through that meet a minimum standard. Set the bar too low and you'll be overrun with applicants who fit the bill.
Actually, we have been involved in a number of tender processes recently outwith CompeteFor, where we have had to submit detailed information as part of the PQQ, and still the client has been overwhelmed with responses. Not a bad thing, but Government Agencies are going to have to get used to this - the Government is running a very successful campaign to make SMEs aware of public sector contracts - it's clearly working!
However, sadly, I think this means more box-ticking, and less focus on the actual creative work or experience.
Conformity. Ah yes, I must reread Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence.” And George Orwell’s “1984” or J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye." It seems the nature of society's influence upon the individual via propaganda, advertisement or authority is still alive and well in our culture.
Why can’t the Olympic Delivery Authority (I wonder if they have a logo) choose design firms that have demonstrated their ability to meet deadlines and solve problems in a unique manner? Selecting firms randomly is simply dumb.
Farcical way to appoint anyone to do anything!
We have just been through something similar with another client...
It seems that winning any new creative business now is mostly down to pure luck no matter how good you or your work may be.
I would hazard a guess that CompeteFor does not have a form of Creative director roll within the company.
This clearly shows that there are still organizations out there that do not have an understanding of how the design and creative process should ideally work. Isn't that a failing of the creative industry in its self?
Shouldn't we learn from this that we should be trying more to inspire non creative companies of the merits of design and not criticizing them for not doing something they don't know much about.
Maybe we take design for granted to much. A lot of people anticipated and feared bad design for the upcoming Olympics, how many tried to nip it in the bud and show all these new companies like CompeteFor the correct method.
How we inspire a greater respect or understanding of design in the mainstream is another question altogether.
For God's sake why can't you whingers realise that this is England. Here we are renowned for choosing designers because they have no talent of because they are the most expensive. The sooner you all get used to the fact that our logos for the games will be as creative as a double decker bus the sooner we can get on with the job of cocking up the rest of the Olympic facilities.
ah, well, is this process really any worse than the venality and nepotism which influence the outcomes of many other tenders?
Will they dish out the medals in the same way?
If they dish out the medals the same way then Afghanistan will be outright winners.
A lot of our work is public sector (or funded by Business Link) and I can truthfully say that the majority of people who are actually 'the client' are excellent to work for/with... the problems lay when you start dealing with Procurement depts who are entirely staffed by people who send tons of PPQ documents asking lots of hugely irrelevant 'one size fits all' questions... fine if you are manufacturing widgets, but totally irrelevant to creative processes/ artwork production etc etc.
PPQs often ask lots of questions regarding ISO etc etc
btw - we begin with an A... and I'm often amazed at how many people say they "just looked at a list and yr name was at the top... so we rang you"
oh wait... too early.
Having applied for different public sector tenders, the procurement departments do not see any creative work. Everything is judged (or scored) on various business factors such as the agencies turnover, professional indemnity insurance level and their various policies (such as health and safety).
This probably works well if you're choosing washroom suppliers but surely not for design? By it's nature it needs to be seen and put into context through a case study.
It's time consuming for the smaller agency and studio to apply for public sector work. A PQQ document can be 20+ pages long and can take a day or so to complete, if you're successful a tender document can take two or more days, and even then you might not be shortlisted. I have to commend CompeteFor for taking the process online and making it quick and easy.
However saying that it's crazy to choose the agency randomly. Time to change.
What drives me mad, is the ay you star this articel. 'Our naive hopes' suggesting there is absolutely no way this can be a success from a creative point of view. London, and the UK is incredibely good at managing creative projects, and the London Olympics will illustrate this, but you are handling this no better than the Sun or Mirror by focussing on the negative, and not the positive of which there is much as regard the Olympics or the creative element of the Olympics. Design, and creativtiy involves a great deal of positivity. Is the writer of this article ex-tabloid journalist!
Does this not say something about the state of the British design industry, we have thousands of design agencies and they all look the same.
Agencies need to differentiate themselves (in the same way that we'd advise our clients to do), select an area of work or a sector that they can excel in and offer greater value to clients. If we all look the same, then why wouldn't a client just pick names out of hat.
I think that this article, after doing a little (2 minute) search, is wildly misleading. The Sustainability commission has nothing to do with London 2012, it is 'an independent body with reporting duties only to the Olympic Board and the public.' That reports about the Games. London 2012 is a completely different brand that, unfortunately, has to fund this formality.
It's a shame that people seem to so easily twist stories to make something out of it. I think the wolff olins logo is not that great as a form but as a brand I think it is fresh and exciting with great opportunities like the union jack logo that was floating around at the time Beijing was going on. Something that no previous Olympic games identity has been since '72.
They appointed Wolff Olins (a pretty good company) to create the brand so they are obviously doing something, right regardless of the fact the work was different. I doubt they were appointed randomly.
As the piece explains, CSL 2012 was established ‘to help London 2012 organisers deliver the most sustainable Games to date, by providing independent assurance and expert commentary, direct to the Olympic Board’, so I'm not quite sure how you can say it has 'nothing to do' with the London games.
While the random selection process employed in Sparks Studios' experience may not be one employed by ODA and LOCOG (and we have made clear that they were not involved in this case), the piece throws up what, judging by the comments, appears to be a wider concern - the CompeteFor tendering process, which most certainly is being used by both the ODA and LOCOG.
CR will be returning to the issues raised in this post in a longer article for a forthcoming issue.
My point is the article has nothing to do with London 2012 the brand, of course it is to do with the actual Games, and by placing the logo their it is misleading as the article is about csl2012. Although LOCOG and the ODA use the same tender process doesn't necessarily mean they choose people at 'random' as these other people do.
I was one of Otl Aicher's deputies on the Munich Olympiad. Otl wouldhave found the whole 2012 design management "laecherlich" (ie ridiculous, laughable, ludicrous). It is a national embarassment!
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