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Good Design is Sound Economics

28th September 1951
Page 42
Page 42, 28th September 1951 — Good Design is Sound Economics
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

First International Congress on Design Emphasizes that Higher Management Must Inspire Improvements

ANY great public service depends for its success on goodwill and we have proved that this can be .built up and preserved not merely by efficiency and .intrinsic quality but by visual appearance and presentation. . . .

" Goodwill . . . is compounded of many constituents . . . but perhaps the sum of them is that an undertaking seeks to go beyond the strict letter of obligation towards pleasing its public, in the quality of its service, of its design and of its general presentation." With this statement, Lord Latham, chairman of London Transport Executive, justified the interest in design which has been a feature of the Execu tive and its predecessors for the past 35 years. He was delivering a paper entitled "Design in London Transport" before the 1951 Design Congress, which, as briefly reported in" The Commercial Motor" last week, took place in London from September 19-20.

The theme of the congress was design policy in industry as a responsibility of high-level management, and some 250 industrial executives from 15 countries. attended. Summing-up the congress at i is conclusion, Dr. R. S. Edwards, chairman of the Council of Industrial Design, which organized it, stated that the feeling of the delegates was that design policy was vital to the economic and commercial success of any undertaking and it had to be directed at board level.

In every field. of activity, he said, good design was good business. Understanding of this point should be evident not only in the product, but also in the arrangements for its marketing and advertising.

Enthusiasm at the Top

DR. EDWARDS'S view was supported by Lord Latham in his paper. tic began by referring to the debt which. ihe Executive owed to the late Frank Pick, who, in 1916, decided that the undertaking needed a style of printing for official notices. . He commissioned the greatest lettering artist of the day to design the lettering now used in posters, notices, destination blinds, busstop signs and books of rules.

This move, said Lord Latham, heralded an enthusiasm for good design which, although initiated from above, rapidly became a tradition of London Transport permeating all levels of . management and every class of craftsman.

Unless someone at the top of an industry had the faith, vision and power In set a standard, those below—those who actually did the work—could not be expected to create it of their own accord. The traditionwas not yet universal that beauty in design was also a function which grew in importance as the utilitarian function was perfected. This applied not only to the goods and services which a business provided, but also to the means for selling them.

BS Presentation had to become a function in itself. Quality of advertising was no substitute for quality of product; but the absence of this quality impaired the purpose of production.

Dealing with the subject of design in publicity, Lord Latham said that the first priority in the Executive's trafficpromotion schemes was given to the good design of maps, so that everyone could understand and make full use of the complicated system of services run by the L.T.E. Second priority was given to poster displays, now part of the esthetic heritage of this country.

Concerning the question of street furniture, Lord Latham said that to-day it could be called street clutter, and

nobody seemed capable of restoring -order out of chaos. He cited examples

of bad design and siting of street furniture and referred to the work carried out by the Executive in this field. This was aimed at achieving efficiency and public amenity. Three stop signs were now used in the place of the hundreds which the under taking had inherited. All signs were being rationalized, and better designs of street furniture were produced which were cheaper to buy and cost less to maintain. • Balance Between Art and Engineering

SALES depend on esthetic demand as much as on functional features. This was the point made by Ing. Dante Giacosa, director of engineering of SA. Fiat, Turin, in his paper.

The Fiat company manufactures coaches, motorbuses, troIleybuses and tractors, as well as private cars, and a section dealing with the artistic aspect is included in the commercial-vehicle production department.

A design was good, said Ing. Giacosa, when it produced a true balance between art and engineering. It was the responsibility of the highlevel management of the company to see that this balance was achieved. In Italy, particular attention had always bc.en devoted to the lines of bodywork, either because of the particular conditions of the market or because a taste for beauty was a natural attribute of the Italian mind.

The idea of having a group of technicians exclusively concerned with artistic design had been adopted in Europe only in recent years and under the stimulus of American competition. Technical branches of manufacturers had been brought up in the mechanical tradition and tended to be more interested in their own work than in coachbuilding. The automobile industry would succeed in harmonizing functional value and appearance when conditions allowed the training of designers who could combine technical knowledge with means for artistic expression, Willing Co-operation in Design Policy

AN outline of the methods employed in the formulation and execution of design policy in the Rootes Group was provided by Mr. B. B. Winter, director of engineering, Rootes Motors, Ltd. This showed how it was the function of management to inspire and foster willing co-operation between the individual departments which were responsible for the execution of a design policy.

. Any initial design policy had to be a compromise between a number of diverse factors. For example, a decision to launch a new major project had to be governed by a long-term sales policy which took into account market trends, features in popular demand and special overseas requirements.

Control was exercised by an operational board of directors, each of whom carried a clear-cut responsibility. Two of these, in addition to the director of engineering, took a particularly close • interest in design, with emphasis on styling. The senior directors, notably the chairman, made a practice of visiting export territories, and the experience thus gained concerning requirements, trends and preferences was worth more than all the cold facts obtained by conventional, but imper sonal, market research.

Mr. Winter offered as a motto to all vehicle designers the phrase "evolution --not revolution." On occasions, a revolutionary design might, and should, be introduced, but this was the exception rather than the rule. Steady and logical development of a proven basic design should be a general policy.

Production Ahead, of Orders IN the case of the Budd Co., of 'America, the design committee might venture production ahead of concrete orders, said Dr. M. Walter, director of research of this company, in his paper. The Budd concern builds trailers, rail cars and body parts. He described a typical design cycle as experienced in his company.

The growth of a design from the seed of an idea was marked by continuous scrutiny of facts. Opinions were analysed and analyses checked by tests. At every stage there was. something tangible to gauge progress, The cycle consisted of experiment, prototype, tests, demonstration and production.

The company maintained a large number of laboratories for this purpose. There were structural-test, climate, metallurgical, chemical, engine and electrical laboratories, as well as a brake laboratory with one of the world's largest dynamometers. There were also manufacturing research-proving and experimental laboratories.

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