Studio Blackburn’s refreshed identity for the Canal and River Trust

The design studio has created an abstract logo of a bridge reflected on water to represent the charity, which looks to protect and maintain England and Wales’ waterways.

Studio Blackburn has designed a new identity for the Canal and River Trust, a charity that maintains and regenerates waterways across England and Wales.

The studio has designed a circular symbol for the organisation’s new logo, which fades off into stripes further down. This aims to represent the reflection of a bridge on a canal, as well as water ripples, says Paul Blackburn, founder at the studio. It replaces a logo consisting of a swan swimming on a canal underneath a bridge.

Blackburn adds that the new logo aims to represent the idea of “transition” – moving from “the old to the new”, while retaining the bridge element of the previous logo.

“The shape now also represents a rising sun, unity and togetherness, as well as the reflections of water,” he says.

A refreshed colour palette accompanies the new logo, comprised of two blue and two green shades used alongside white. These four colours indicate water, sky, leaf and grass, with the dark blue core colour representing water. An extended palette of orange and yellow has also been used across communications, to symbolise both “land and water”, says Blackburn.

Modern Era, a “contemporary, friendly” sans-serif typeface with a “large x-height” – the height of letters minus their descenders and ascenders – has been used for the logo and all copy to provide “legibility”, he adds.


A new strapline “Making life better by water” accompanies the rebrand, which looks to represent the Canal and River Trust’s mission to transform canals and rivers into “spaces where local people want to spend time and feel better”, according to the charity.

Patterns that reflect water waves are printed on marketing communications such as posters and leaflets, alongside photography of people using canals and animals that dwell on water, such as swans.

Blackburn says the new visual identity was inspired by “the [charity’s] focus on bringing waterways alive” and “encouraging communities to come together to love and care for their local canal or river”.

“We were trying to create a brand system that gives the [charity] more flexibility to develop as an inclusive, modern and sociable brand to a much wider audience, rather than the current, and inaccurate, perception of ‘those people who maintain the canals’,” says Blackburn. “Roughly half the population of England and Wales lives within five miles of a canal, so the footfall for the brand is huge.”

The new branding is currently rolling out across all touchpoints, including print marketing materials such as posters, signage, merchandise, uniforms, internal print documents, charity vans and across the website and social media.

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  • Margaret Merridale May 23, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    What a total waste of time and money and the ‘explanation’ is a load of old c….p
    The money should have been spend on ‘protecting and maintaining’ the waterways. Not on ‘jobs for the boys’ like this

    • Richard Aldred May 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      I agree completely, the revamped original logo was not outdated or did not give the wrong impression of the organisation. I live very near to the Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool canal and chat to the CaRT Fundraisers who have a stall there and often advised how difficult it is to recruit new members to keep the funds flowing in. I would have thought this new identity makeover was nowhere near top of the list of priority spending.

  • Craig Coultman-Smith May 24, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Love the bridge/sun/reflection icon. I think it has longevity.

  • jozef nakielski May 24, 2018 at 9:33 am

    It represents more of what the trust doesn’t want to be than what it wants to be. A tube half full of sludge with something floating in it. It looks terrible.

    • Stuart wallace May 24, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      what a great shame that so many people have such closed minds. This design and rebranding is huge step forward.yes the reasoning is a bit arty farty.but we have to widen the audience to bring in the monies required to improve the network. sorry but that’s the facts of lifeeither move forward or stay still and die

      • Julie Neale May 31, 2018 at 10:00 pm

        And how does this rubbish design bring in more money a nd attract more interest? Most interest so far is negative especially about the waste of money.

  • Dave S May 24, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    a half-submerged tyre, plenty of those on the canal already.

    Massive lost opportunity here, canals are a heritage attraction, a beautiful piece of living history, which is why a modern logo looks so out of place, it’s the equivalent of fitting upvc double glazing to York Minster. If I’d been re-branding CRT I would have taken design cues from one of its older incarnations, perhaps BWB.

  • Roger Dean May 24, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    So How does it exactly resemble a bridge? surely the old logo which was actually a bridge with a swan incorporated was more appropriate

  • Jane Johnson May 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Just says “Blue Circle Cement” to me. Totally unnecessary rebranding and a shocking waste of charity funds

  • Richard Aldred May 24, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Far from having closed minds and judging by many of the comments made here, it would appear that informed people are not simply seduced by a change in visual image but are legitimately questioning the reasoning behind such expenditure when the infrastructure of the network is in such dire need of investment. The roll-out alone of such a radical departure from the previous identity (which I personally believe is a much more inspired and lasting design solution) will surely run in to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The responses on Twitter to the CaRT rebrand carry similar sentiments!

  • James May 25, 2018 at 11:20 am

    I can only see an O here, and after that with the sun explanation I’m reminded too much of the Obama rising sun/new day identity…

  • Andy Slater May 25, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    To me it doesn’t look like a logo for a charitable organisation – especially when paired with that awful corporate shade of blue – it looks more like a utility company or transport logo. I honestly can’t see how an abstract logo like this will help to raise people’s awareness of the Trust…

  • Chrisc May 28, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    OBAMA 08!

  • Julie Neale May 31, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Just awful. Nothing wrong with old logo. Reminds me of Blue Circle Cement. Waste of time and money

  • Pete Doherty June 1, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    I’m surprised by the number of outraged! comments, I thought it was the Daily Telegraph letters page for a moment. I think the logo works well in that it does what good logos do and gives you an indication of what it’s about without being overly complicated. The ‘C’ forms a neat bridge (canal bridges are circular) and there’s the reflection – maybe slightly overdone. But it works and that’s all it needs to do.

    The previous logo was too literal, fussy and just not suited to the digital world of the 21st Century. It was never up there as a classic British design like say the Wool Mark, British Rail or British Steel was it? (all logos whose strength is in their simplicity).

    And all the fuss about cost? Take a look at the DBA Awards – good design can be very effective and that effectiveness translates into guess what? – Revenue.

  • Matt Appleton June 28, 2018 at 9:44 am

    The previous logo was clearer, especially to a wider audience, more immediate, and reflected better the environmental protection role of CRT. Simple as that.

    Imagine the waste of resources rolling this out when the money could be spent improving canals and waterways.

    In more ways than one this is a great example of where a design agency should have the responsibility, insight and balls to say to their client that leaving the core brand alone is actually the best ‘solution’ to whatever ‘problem’ they thought they had.

    I am sure there would have been lots of other smaller scale more sensitive interventions with signage and comms of all other sorts that could have been deployed without the ego-inflating need to insist on a new logo.

  • Rebecca Hunt-Davis June 22, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    I agree with the majority here, very sad to see the loss of the old logo and agree with modernity etc for the modern age but this logo does not stand alone, it could be anything and the wildlife aspect is so important for this brand, why lose it and then have to roll out, which is so expensive, an evolution would have been so much better.

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