British Steel makes return with entirely new branding

British Steel announced its return by unveiling a completely new brand after deciding not to revive the David Gentleman-designed logo.

Update 22 May 2019: British Steel has now been placed into compulsory liquidation, after going into insolvency. 5,000 jobs are currently at risk.

After months of speculation a new British Steel brand has been unveiled, featuring an icon that combines a B and an S, which has been designed by Ruddocks.

The unveiling of the new design at British Steel’s steelworks in Scunthorpe has put paid to the suggestion that the iconic David Gentleman-designed logo – used from 1969 to 1999 – would be brought back.  

The British Steel brand stopped being used in 1999 when the company became part of the Corus Group. Corus was subsequently bought by Tata in 2007.

In April Greybull Capital acquired the British Steel name rights from Tata Steel, which also agreed to sell its Long Products Europe business to Greybull Capital. The idea to resurrect the British Steel name was soon confirmed.

“Molten orange”

Ruddocks has worked on the identity, guidelines and brand application, with Doncaster-based Moirae working on British Steel’s digital presence. Both consultancies came through a tender process to win the contract.

The main icon which is set in “molten orange” and combines the B and S letterforms also appears to look like three strips of steel.

Core values of “pride, passion and performance” have been imbued into the icon, according to Ruddocks, which has offset the orange against a cooler navy colour to show steel in its molten and hardened states but also to show how the company is vibrant and exciting (orange), and “cool, professional and committed” (blue/grey).

“We’re looking forward to hearing what the world thinks”

Ruddocks managing director Paul Banton recognises that “The old British Steel logo was iconic” and says “it’s been an exciting challenge to come up with a new brand that we hope will be just as successful.”

Focus groups have been helped with the employees at the Scunthorpe site “and so far the feedback has all been positive”, says Banton, who adds: “We’re now looking forward to hearing what the rest of the world thinks.

“This is a momentous occasion in the country’s steel industry and we are delighted to be part of it. British Steel is strong, both as a product and as an organisation and the new brand has been designed to reflect this.”

19 locations across Europe

British Steel’s new branding will roll out across various communications and touchpoints as well as on site at 17 locations in the UK and Ireland and two in France.

The new site uses the 45 degree angle of the logo as a visual cue. As it is very “information heavy”, British Steel says white space and large images have been used as much as possible.
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  • Richard DePesando June 2, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I wonder if there are people sitting around a big table, looking at what COOP have achieved in the last couple of weeks and the overwhelming public goodwill it has engineered – and thinking to themselves… ‘you know what e’should’ have done…

  • emma overeem June 2, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Firstly, having a personal connection with the area, the news that British Steel has been resurrected and the plant saved is great news for the industry and the town of Scunthorpe and surrounding areas!

    From a design perspective, I was skeptical of a rebrand. The original logo was so iconic and elegant, quite a legacy. However I think Ruddocks have done a really good job. I like the new logo, like the COR-TEN steel inspired orange, and the girder like structures to make up the B. I’m sure it will come under some fire, but pragmatic hat on, it pales into insignificance when you think about what has been saved.

  • Jili Allen June 2, 2016 at 11:08 am

    It doesn’t seem to ooze strength, stability and revival to me… The wording is cowering beside a giant orange origami ‘B’ – it’s not centred to the B points or spaces to give it any real presence or take into account the negative space, which then seems a little haphazard. The font chosen appears uncommital and bland and definitely not ‘stronger’ – all in all not what I was expecting from a logo set to inspire pride, passion, et al… sorry

  • JC June 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    “As [the website] is very information heavy, white space and large images have been used as much as possible.”

    seems like a contradiction – and is – the site isn’t “information heavy” in any sense – it’s a typical corporate brochure like front page with minimal content on the front, and within.

    I supposed this statement was regurgitated from the design brief press release.

  • Neil Littman June 5, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Maybe it will grow on me but my instinctive reaction would have been to revive the David Gentleman logo and apply the new colours. I find the balance of the new identity awkward and don’t really see the ‘S’. Time will tell but judging by the other comments not an overwhelming opinion in favour.

  • Mike Dempsey June 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Anyone designer worth their salts on being commissioned to rebrand British Steel should have had the balls to say, “Let’s revive David Gentleman’s original logo”. It would have been the thing to do. It is just too good not too. But no they had to produce this unimaginative, predictable and dull pieces of work. I sometimes wonder if designers really care, or even know about our graphic history.

    • Erik Spiekermann October 21, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Yes! I live in Germany, but even from here I remember the British Steel interlocking S. The new logo is just new, and if I could only detect the S in it, I could finally read “BS”. Because that’s what it is.

  • Andi Rusyn June 6, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Co-op’s decision to go back to an old logo is a brave one that I think should be applauded.

    The old-now-new logo was-is an excellent piece of design that still works in a contemporary setting. And, as they say, if it ain’t broke… It also takes a section of consumers back to the days when the Co-op’s reputation was rather better than it is today – a pillar of the community as opposed to just another chain as it is today.

    I think it’s also worth applauding North who eschewed the publicity of a very visible redesign (for it’s own benefit) for a return (albeit tweaked) to somebody else’s work as this was deemed better for the client. And this is surely what design is all about – it’s all about the client’s needs and what works for them and their customers.

    We recently did a similar thing at Rusyn Design. We were tasked with rebranding local business Route 39 which was well known and respected within its fields. Following a brand and market analysis we recommended sticking with the current logo (with some minor typographic tweaks) as it had a good deal of brand equity already. The logo was fit for purpose and it would have been very risky to attempt to change it. Instead, we embarked on a complete visual identity based on the existing logo and company ethos. It’s had an excellent response and the client is very happy indeed.

    I wonder if Ruddocks ever considered going back to David Gentleman’s original iconic British Steel logo and creating a new visual identity around it with new fonts, lock-ups and other visual elements. If this approach was explored and discounted by the client then fair enough – it would interesting to hear the reasons and the rationale.

    Instead we have a shiny new brand. As a stand-alone piece of work it works well. They’ve followed Gentleman’s approach of abstracting the initials ‘B’ and ’S’, but have ended up with a icon that has little relevance to steel-making where-as the original has a real ’steel-ness’ to it. It lacks the weight I’d expect from British Steel.

    An interesting aside is whether this would even be a discussion if North and the Co-op had not done what they have…

    We shall never know.

  • Neil Littman June 7, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Just to add something to the comments made by myself and others. There are notable examples of identities that have been fine tuned rather than re invented because the brand equity already had a value that was appreciated and stood for something. I can think of several companies where this technique has worked extremely well and I will give designers the credit for knowing who these companies are.

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