Title: Point of view
Pages: 12 - 13
Text: Point of view
Various ways of promoting the motor
Before, during and after this year's Motor Show, it was obvious that Britain's car industry was in for a tough time, and that because of the sagging home market, renewed effort needed to sell cars abroad. But what sells a car ? Partly, of course, its past reputation, its recent performance in, say, an international event, the enthusiasm and knowledge of its sales staff - and the literature used to promote it. And in staging an exhibition of sales literature at Reed House, London, during October, the London branch of the DIA drew immediate attention to one aspect of the motor industry's work that needs improvement.
The exhibition, which was called Promoting the Motor and was desig ned by Ivor Kamlish and Martin Grierson, was really a comparison of sales literature from Britain, Europe and America. There was, for instance, no Japanese literature, despite the fact that a major Japanese onslaught on world car markets can be expected very soon.
The exhibition began by looking quickly at the history of (mainly) British promotion material, showing the literature that had been used in connection with an early Hillman, the Austin Pearl Cabriolet and a Lagonda which proudly announced that it did 50 miles to the gallon -and 50 miles per hour. One difficulty about this part of the exhibition was that there were surprisingly few dates: a test for vintage car fans, but annoying for anyone who wanted the facts. Having introduced its subject, the exhibition then posed its question: are we really doing it any better today ? And the answer was hardly 'yes'.
The question was looked at by dividing the material into two groups- hard sell and soft sell. Hard sell, according to the exhibition designers, gives you the facts, and here British cars maintain a long tradition, exemplified by the cutaway drawing of the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, complete with detailed close-ups of the front and rear sub assemblies.
But when one moves into the area of soft sell, it seems that the British manufacturers still have a long way to go. The few examples showing, for instance, a Triumph Spitfire in the romantic setting of an Oxford square, or various MGs moving at speed, were poor in comparison with the surrealistic shot of a Volkswagen 1600 Karmann Ghia set on a sandy beach; or the brilliant colour photography used to show the Fiat 850.
In the intensive battle for export markets, it is clear that the impact of sales literature is going to count. As the DIA says, "There are many ways of using paper to sell cars. We don't claim to know which is the best way. We do say: whatever technique you choose, do it well; do it professionally; use the right paper; employ a qualified designer. Above all, don't lag behind your competitors in other lands."
Besides the DIA, the Reed Paper Group Ltd should also be congratulated on the exhibition. Its decision to devote a prominent part of its Piccadilly frontage to displays of this kind has been well justified, and Promoting the Motor has been followed by an exhibition of charity Christmas cards (last month) and the Col D's 1966 British Poster Design Awards, which is on display until the end of December.
A phoney debate at the DIA
Perhaps as a curtain raiser to the ColD's international congress, Profit by Design, reported on pages 14-29 of this issue, the DIA recently staged a debate on the motion that "Good design does not pay" which was proposed by David Pye, professor of furniture design at the Royal College of Art, and seconded by Leslie Julius, joint managing director of S. Hille & Co Ltd; and opposed by Jasper Grinling, managing director of W. & A. Gilbey Ltd. who was seconded by J. A. Saltmarsh of Hotpoint Ltd. The list of names is given, not only to put you in the picture, but also to show that the motion was indeed staged, and that anyone knowing the background of Hille's success, for example, must have realised from the start that the debate was phoney.
However, if we assume that the two proposers of the motion really did believe in the line they were taking, what did they have to say ? Opening the debate, Professor Pye mentioned four industries to show why in his view good design does not pay.
The first industry was his own: good design does not pay in the furniture industry because of the need for obsolescence. This may be so in the domestic market, but in the contract market, the bogy of obsolescence can be overcome, as numerous cases in recent years can demonstrate.
Professor Pye's three other examples came from the car and aircraft industries, both of which, he said, regarded some aspects of safety design as too expensive or unacceptable, and the building industry, where economics see to it that most buildings are cheap and nasty. In fact, he concluded, "nearly everything that is worth having doesn't pay."
Although Professor Pye was prepared to back his motion up to the hilt, Mr Julius was a bit more cautious. "Good design on its own," he said, stressing the last three words, "does not pay-you cannot design in a vacuum. Good design is primarily a management tool, and must be treated as such." Well, that sounded as if he was sitting on the fence, but no! Professor Pye was right.
Those who stick to good design are doomed, doomed by the lack of protection against cut rate imitators and by the
ever increasing rate of change. In his own industry, for example, design fashions started by the Bauhaus have been
rapidly succeeded by Op. Pop and Glop. Which is where, perhaps, Mr Julius would leave it?
On the other side of the house, Mr Grinling thought that "visually, Britain does seem to be waking up," and that, not surprisingly, the fact that good design is being taken seriously proves that it pays somebody. Could he possibly have had his opponents in mind ?
That, of course, was the trouble. The DIA had selected the wrong speakers. If it really wants to debate such a motion, then it must find proposers who really believe in what they say. In this case, an outright fight would have been much better than a phoney war.
Bathrooms get into the limelight
For some odd reason, less seems to be known about the design of a bathroom than almost any other room in the house. What has been lacking has been comprehensive guidance on fittings and, more importantly, the ergonomic data on which to base their design, and their relationship to each other. But three publications, which have come out this year, go a long way toward meeting these needs.
The first, entitled Bathrooms, is published
by Macdonald & Coin association with the ColD and has been written by Goutran Goulden, director of The Building Centre. The booklet is intended primarily to give practical advice on bathroom planning and equipment. It deals with the siting of the bathroom in relation to the overall design of the house, and with such matters as floor and wall treatment heating, lighting, ventilation and building regulations.
The second publication is the report on bath rooms prepared for the Col D by its advisory committee on hotels and restaurants. The report is aimed at providing guidance on equipment. and its
sections - on baths, showers, washbasins, lavatories and bidets - include ergonomic data as well as details of materials, finishes and ancillary equipment.
The bathroom - criteria for design, which has recently been published by Cornell University, New York, takes a completely different line. Its main concern is not the equipment, but the human requirements, and as a result of analysing the biological and phsychological factors, the report proposes completely new designs of bathroom equipment. In fact, so radical are its proposals that we shall be publishing an extensive summary of them in next month's issue
Business efficiency, yes but not by poor literature
The Business Efficiency Exhibition, held recently at Olympia, illustrated one weakness in company attitudes to design which is still too common in wide sections of British industry. This is the failure to carry through a design policy, introduced in one section of a firm's business, consistently and convincingly in all its other activities. Thus, the generally high standard of design which is now evident in a good deal of the desk top equipment (such as typewriters, calculators, duplicators, etc) as well as in many of the larger machines, was seldom matched by the exhibition stands or the sales literature.
Many exhibition stands were too cluttered to make an effective impact on the passer-by - and this in spite of a stand design competition sponsored for the second year running by the exhibition organisers, the Business Equipment Trade Association (BETA). There seemed to be little evidence of professional design advice being used for the great majority of stands, and the paucity of imaginative display ideas was depressing
Even worse than the stands, however. was the sales literature. Poor graphics and
amateurish illustrations on leaflets, brochures and price lists badly let down the products they promoted. English Electric Leo Marconi Computers Ltd was an outstanding exception: the firm's folders in particular, with their clear colours and good graphics, efficiently promoted the image of a modern company (which has Wolf Olins and Partners as design consultants.)
The business equipment industry has a steadily rising export rate since the war, but imports are running very close. Obviously 'The Business Makers', who undoubtedly have good products to sell, cannot afford to neglect any of the means of selling them.
A rosy future for high speed trains
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the convention on guided land transport held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London last month was its spirit of optimism. Despite Lord Beeching and his rail cuts, despite the competition from domestic airlines, despite even the great switch from rail to road as a means of family transport, the delegates clearly felt that the future of railways is still secure.
The introduction of liner trains and the re-organisation of freight traffic is clearly going to maintain, for example, British Rail's position as a major goods carrier. And, in particular, a distinction is at last being made between miscellaneous and multidirectional goods that are better served by road, and steady flow, bulk freight - coal, oil, heavy machinery, etc - which are ideal for rail. The establishment of a regular traffic pattern between, for example, coal fields and power stations, and industrial centres and major ports, will do much to
rationalise the use of railways, and the adoption of containers considerably improve handling techniques throughout the country.
But it was not only the thought of freight traffic which made the railwaymen happy. The new electric line between London, Manchester and Liverpool has proved that, in certain circumstances, it is quite possible to attract passengers back to the railways, and in this connection, everyone's mind was on speed. Five years ago, if you mentioned 150 mph expresses averaging 100 mph, the railwaymen would have laughed at you. But not today. The Tokio-Osaka Tokaido line has blazed a trail that is now being followed throughout Japan; in Germany, 100 mph inter city expresses have already been introduced; and in France, Jean Bertin's Aerotrain shoots along its 6 km experimental track at well over 200 mph. The future, it seems, will provide a few really fast trains, and many others which will maintain average speeds of between 60-80 mph over shorter distances and with more frequent stops.
In recent railway history, the Tokaido line marks a great step forward. The next big
breakthrough will undoubtedly be the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System, whose first leg is expected to open in 1969. BARTD (as it is known) is important for two reasons: first, as a system for commuters, who will be transported at average speeds of 50 mph - which includes stopping every 2 miles; and second, because of its overall design policy. The use of industrial designers is, in fact, becoming accepted practice in the railway world, and has had considerable effect on the passenger amenities and graphics of, for example, the Milan and Montreal metros. But neither of these systems has the scope offered by BARTD, whose architectural features are being considered by design consultants, in addition to the rolling stock and various aspects of the automatic ticket collection and control equipment. All these systems will be featured in DESIGN next year.
Finally, one last comment. Why the title 'Guided land transport'? Or do the railwaymen really believe that all other land transport is unguided ? Misguided perhaps, but unguided surely not!