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…

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.

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