Our challenge in rolling out Barclays’ new visual identity was to rejuvenate the look of one of the best known brands on the UK high street. This was a challenge for designer Interbrand Newell and Sorrell and the Barclays team for a number of reasons:

The identity had to sit as part of a wider programme to enhance perceptions of the Barclays brand – a programme of activities which will, over time, touch everything from product development, branch design, and staff behaviour. Therefore, the updating of our visual identity had to act as a signal both internally and externally that things at Barclays are changing.

It had to truly reflect the brand. Barclays is perceived as mainly a UK high street bank, yet we are a multinational financial services organisation operating in more than 70 countries. Within the Barclays Group is an investment bank, Barclays Capital – the world’s largest institutional investment manager, based in San Francisco – Barclays Global Investors and a corporate banking operation. Our new visual identity had to encompass all these markets and differing business needs.

It had to work well on today’s – and tomorrow’s – technology. We are seeing a rapid growth in new delivery channels, such as Internet banking, PC banking and drive-through ATMs. The identity has to work for all these formats.

It had to reflect our 300-year history, our stature and experience. Yet, at the same time, it had to highlight the innovative, progressive nature of the way we do business. And it had

to be recognisably Barclays – we could not start from scratch, as our brand is already well known and an immensely valuable asset.

The final challenge was one of acceptance internally. There was – and still is – an attachment to our old identity. The eagle in particular was on the original sign which hung outside our first offices three centuries ago. The Barclays Blue has been a well-known feature on high streets since it was introduced in 1967. We had to take our staff with us on this journey and prove that we were not throwing the baby out with the bath water. This involved a comprehensive communications programme which aimed to tell our shareholders and staff about the changes before the world at large. Most importantly, we aimed to put the change in context – explaining the business rationale for changing the identity.

What is this rationale? The existing visual identity, now more than 30 years old, was looking tired and worn, especially compared to the new entrants in the banking sector like Virgin, British Airways and BMW.

It was not designed for today’s modern delivery channels, particularly the Web and today’s more advanced printing processes.

The banking marketplace is crowded, and customers are often confused by the vast array of products and services on offer. Our old identity was not creating enough “clear space” between us and our competitors.

The bottom line is we needed to differentiate. Swap the logos over on any range of product literature from financial services providers and you’ll be hard pressed to notice. Our marketing and advertising spend needed to be maximised. In other words, our brand was not looking as good as it should; we were underselling our brand and it was not realising its full potential.

We need to be competitive, and customers expect brands to look after the way they present themselves in the marketplace.

The next challenges were ones of implementation. In a highly competitive marketplace, where costs are under constant scrutiny, we cannot afford the “big bang” approach to changing our identity overnight. So, we need to change on the basis of what matters most to the customers – what communications materials make the greatest impact. This was for our business areas to decide. Implementation proved a great opportunity to revisit the way things are done. As we investigated changing the typeface, communications and customer service procedures were also rationalised.

We needed to find a design partner which first and foremost had considerable creative strength to come up with the best design solution, and then had the solid implementation, practical advice and skills to steer us through the multitude of new rules and guidance for the use of the identity. The importance of internal communications can not be underestimated as this is the staff’s identity first and foremost.

So the visual identity change is part of something wider and deeper. At best, the identity can signal these broader changes. The new identity had to stretch to access a diverse customer and market, but at the same time not become diluted or be the lowest common denominator. Above all, an identity change is an opportunity to fundamentally review the way things work.

Caitlin Thomas is project manager at Barclays

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