Design flaw

September 2, 2005

Jonathan Baldwin mounts a spirited defence of the new University College London logo and of the importance of design ("Why I think designers are undervalued", August 12).

He has raised a number of interesting points. However, the suggestion that UCL staff who are unhappy about the new logo or the way that its implementation has been enforced are driven by the desire to be "exclusive and old-fashioned" cannot pass unchallenged. If it were the case that the rebranding of UCL demonstrated a real attempt to take widening access and social inclusivity seriously, it would be widely applauded.

There is little or no evidence that this is so. Baldwin seems to mistake the world of appearances for that of underlying reality.

I am far from convinced that the fact that something is old is, in itself, proof that it must be replaced. This is particularly true in a period when "'modern" and "modernity" are frequently used as code words for the drive to casualise staff, worsen employment conditions and increase the power of centralised management at the expense of local autonomy, flexibility and creativity.

Of course, new managements wish to stamp their presence on the organisations they control, for fear that when they have moved on they might leave no lasting marker. Who can forget the Consignia fiasco? But who remembers any improvement in the services provided or in the way the firm treated staff?

Baldwin asks if £600,000 for the new logo is a good investment and answers that it is. But at a time when UCL's budget is so tight that the management is attempting to shed 15 per cent of Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded teaching staff over the next three years, perhaps spending priorities have become confused.

Simon Renton
Vice-president, University College London branch, Association of University Teachers

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