We’ve heard a lot about Tata and the UK steel industry in the news these past few weeks, a lot of it for the wrong reasons. With cheap steel coming in from foreign markets it seemed likely that we would lose a large chunk one of our most famed exports. Being born in Teesside, and having a father and grandfather who both worked in the steel industry, I’d have hated to see that happen. So when a buy-out was announced the relief was great, but the media spotlight barely blinked off before being swung onto a possibly even more contentious issue – the relaunch of the British Steel brand.
As a UK designer of a certain age I’ve seemingly have certain identities engraved into my mind from birth – British Rail, British Airways, British Steel (can you spot the pattern?) — so it’s with great caution that one of these national treasures should be reworked. Remember Maggie’s hankie placed over that model plane’s tail?
The original British Steel logo was designed in 1969 by David Gentleman, and was much admired as a simple, strong and highly usable mark. But this old favourite was nowhere to be seen at the relaunch.
Instead a new orange and grey mark was paraded — it seems even iconic designs have their time as companies look to ever evolve their brands. The stage was set and naturally the design blogs and social sphere blew up with comments. There are obviously a lot of designers and non-designers out there who have strong feelings about the mark such was the ferocity (a lot of it unprintable).
— Does the new mark represent steel like the bending forms of the old logo?
— Does the new typeface have the same bold confidence and authority?
— Why change a classic?
— Why spend money on something that doesn’t need changing?
Perhaps it was inevitable that the company would want to show progress. Perhaps it’s an opportunity missed. What do you think?