A welcome return for corporate identity work

So, corporate identity is back in the design arena. Wally Olins’ decision to release a new book on the subject (see page 12) suggests that confidence is returning to the sector. More telling are the recent call from his consultancy, Wolff Olins, for telecoms businesses to use identity more effectively to differentiate themselves and Coley Porter Bell’s survey with Mintel this week. Design groups are once more putting themselves forward as authorities in this contentious area.

The cognescenti would have expected no less. Aquisitions and mergers between companies have been growing worldwide over the past few years. Meanwhile, new “sunrise” industries have developed. We’re looking at new ways of doing just about everything, and as this spawns new enterprises so they need to be identified.

It is taking an age for design to get a real piece of the action. We’ve seen a lot of logos of late, but very few of the big identity jobs so common in the late Eighties. CPB’s work for British Gas last year was seen as the start, but still we wait. Meanwhile, there’s arguably been only one really great piece of corporate work – the Orange branding by Wolff Olins for telecoms giant Hutchison.

Now though there could be British Airways.Whether or not Newell and Sorrell, so coy about its role in the affair, is commissioned for a full-blown identity programme, it’s almost certainly in on the deliberations at BA. Here is a responsible client who’s listening to the call for change, but who wants to review its image properly before taking that step – and has apparently turned to a design group to conduct that strategic review, regardless of the eventual need for visual work.

We need more of this for design to win respect from big business. But after BA, what next? The smart money is on the BBC, despite denials of an identity review by design director Tony Key. Like telecoms, entertainment is moving fast, and the Beeb must consider its image as competition hots up. Even if it doesn’t end up with a visual overhaul, it would still be wise to include designers in any review.

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