Those who know me know that I am passionate about national branding. I’ve written about it, talked about it and run seminars on it, so I was especially keen to take a first peek when this week a group of businesses (It seems this isn’t a government initiative) launched a “Made in Britain” campaign with a new logo designed by the design group The Partners. Did you hear the fanfare? Me neither, and I have to say I can’t remember when I was more disappointed with a logo.
The clue to the outcome may be in the caveats contained in the press reports. Phrases like “The design had to work on a wide range of products” which apart from being obvious, is a bit of a give-away when emphasised like this. Reading between the lines I get the impression that this ended up as a design by committee, which is actually just what it looks like. Greg Quinton, a partner at The Partners is quoted as saying “… we wanted to design a remarkable marque that embraced the extraordinary opportunity to promote the proud history and quality of British manufacturing”. Go for it Greg! Sadly, I find myself asking “So why didn’t you?”
There’s a discussion going on on The Drum as to whether the design works or not and immediately two obvious flaws were highlighted. Not that they needed highlighting, they rather slapped you in the face! The first is that the stylised arrow concocted from a corner of the Union Flag is pointing down in the image heading the article (a negative) and that the designer has chosen to swap the blue colour in the flag for a battleship grey, which not only counter-intuitive, but is begging for the Scotts to feel marginalised. The Drum debate revolves in part around whether this is a mistake or “design”. Forget it, its a mistake!
I’m not necessarily blaming The Partners for this mistake, although the fact that they didn’t walk away from the project if it became clear that client influence would turn it into a dog’s breakfast somehow makes them more than complicit, but everyone knows that a project like this has to start with a clearly defined brand model and a well-written brief. Looking at this, I get the impression that there were neither of these.
The purpose of a logo, any logo, is to act as a short-hand for your brand. I understand perfectly that the union flag alone wouldn’t constitute design job done, but that’s because it needs to be added to. In this case, the design takes away a vital “starter for ten” – the colour blue. Red, white and blue – it’s simple, now build on that! The arrow idea might have some mileage, but not when its indicating decline. Point the darned thing up at least. I’m really disappointed that nobody saw the need to add some dynamism to the design and where’s the manifestation of “pride”, or indeed any sense of “attitude”?
As for the font. well, I’m sorry, but it just looks as though nobody though of that until afterwards. No, scrub that. Nobody thought about that at all! When all is said and done, this just paints a picture of Britain and, more importantly in this instance, products made in Britain, as old fashioned, boring and unimaginative. Consider the sales pitch – “So would madam prefer the stylish, modern and efficient product from Italy, the robustly engineered German version or a tired and old-fashioned British contingent?” I doubt there will be many surprises at the outcome.
From what I can see from their website The Partners have produced some nice work in the past, so what went wrong here? Personally I feel this is a valuable opportunity squandered and, for whatever reason, another attempt to big-up British manufacturing is doomed, which is a pity because British manufacturers need a leg-up and there is plenty of equity in the British manufacturing brand, just not in this logo. Where’s the “big idea”?
A couple of posts ago I mentioned how important the style and content of small print on packaging is. The same applies here. You have limited elements with a logo design, you have to milk them all for all they are worth. A good logo design is like a thousand words. Sure, there are millions of crap logos around, many of which get by because over the years they’ve accumulated masses of investment. But this is a clean sheet. Why doesn’t it at least say “Proudly made in Britain”. I can’t see any sign of life this logo, but what does it say to you?
January 7, 2014