In his way, the late designer Douglas Scott did as much for the character of London as did the architects of St. Paul's Cathedral and Big Ben.

Scott's contribution to the skyline was the Routemaster, the most famous and enduring of the capital's red double-decker buses.Londoners and tourists loved Scott, even if they had never heard of him, because travelers on his bus - which has an open exit at the back - could save time and energy by hopping on or off at red lights and in traffic jams.

No one likes the Routemaster's hydraulic successors, whose automatic doors keep passengers incarcerated until arrival at official stops.

Scott died recently at the age of 77, but the Routemaster rumbles on. Although the last ones were manufactured in 1968, their rugged and simple design has kept them going longer than newer models intended to replace them.

There are Routemasters on the road around the globe. British bus companies sold some of them off as newer designs came in. Now they wish they hadn't.

The Routemaster doesn't allow its bulk to intimidate, even though it can consume 69 passengers at a gulp. Scott rounded the corners and edges of his leviathan to give it a soft and gentle appeal. It was perfectly matched to London's dense streets and customs down to the last detail, including the durable tartan moquette seat covers.

Although he was unknown to the public, he was widely respected among professional designers. He could impart a durable style to anything.

There are Routemaster buses on display at numerous transport museums, while another Scott product, the Roma wash-basin, which he designed 30 years ago for Ideal Standard, is on permanent display at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The basin is still being manufactured and installed in houses, offices and hotels around the world.

Born in Lambeth, a south London working-class stronghold, Scott began training at the age of 13 as a jeweler and silversmith at London's Central School of Art and Design. He thought that was a mistake - he always believed he should have been a writer.

Instead, he found himself designing art deco lighting for town halls and cinemas. Lighting was always Scott's specialty, and his street lamps light up the dark corners of Australia, Cyprus, Mexico and many other countries.

From 1936 to 1939, he worked in the London office of Raymond Loewy, the Frenchman who pioneered product design in Europe and the United States. Loewy was jealous of his reputation and made sure that all drawings from his office carried only Loewy's name.

But when the London office closed at the outbreak of war in 1939, Scott hung on to the blueprints of the products he had designed. Modest though he was, he intended to keep the credit for the stream of household gadgets, stoves, car bodies and assorted lighting systems that had come from his pen.

During the war, he worked for De Havillands on aero engine design. When peace came, he set up his own studio and helped to establish Britain's first professional product design course at the school where he had been a pupil.

Ironically, he was later fired by the Central School of Art for insisting too loudly that the course should be run by people with practical experience.

The commission to design the Routemaster came in 1953, along with work on many of the innovations that characterized post-war Britain - supermarkets, food-mixers, television sets.

User-friendliness was always a characteristic of Scott's work, and restraint was the essence of his design skill.