The exhumation of brand guidelines – what would you bring back?

The New York City Subway Style Guide was republished last year and now there is a campaign to bring back the British Rail corporate identity manual. We asked designers, “Are there any guidelines you’d like to see republished?”


Graham Shearsby, chief creative officer, Design Bridge
Graham Shearsby, chief creative officer, Design Bridge

“Back In the mid 1960s, Gerry Anderson created amazingly strong, all-encompassing brand identities for the organisations in his seminal fictional TV series. From International Rescue’s outstretched helping hand to Captain Scarlet’s Spectrum identity and UFO’s secret SHADO organisation, a fantastic attention to detail prevailed on bold typography, distinctive uniforms, colour palettes and vehicles, even extending to sonic branding and brand language – FAB Parker spectrum is green! Anderson’s miniature fictional worlds were treated incredibly seriously, with the obsessive and minute attention to detail we associate today with his namesake, Wes.

I would love to see the original concepts, design work and guides published for the first time. It’s very clear that the inspiring visual worlds of Century 21 Productions inspired a budding generation of designers glued to teatime rented television sets.”

Matt Baxter, Baxter and Bailey
Matt Baxter, creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“My initial thought was this: wouldn’t it be ace to see a reprint of the 1998 RAC brand guidelines by North. Often mentioned in hushed tones by design geeks, especially those of a Gridnikky persuasion. Occasionally referred to in grimly reverential tones by printers: “Twelve specials, three different tinted spot varnishes, three metallics, case bound…”.

But I decided I wasn’t being ambitious enough. So what I’d really like to see resurrected are the brand guidelines for Bass Brewery, owners of the first trademarked logo, the 1875 red triangle. What did brand guidelines look like in 1875? How do you define co-branding rules when there are no other logos? You can certainly claim some clear positioning in a field of one. And given that the logo appears in over 40 Picasso paintings as well as Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, the rules on logo use by third parties must have been pretty stringent.”

Jack Renwick
Jack Renwick, founder, Jack Renwick Studio

“I once spent 6 months writing an exhaustive set of Stationery Guidelines for McKinsey. They were a fantastically thorough client so attention to detail was paramount and I was pretty chuffed with the outcome.

They were unfortunately bound in a floppy frosted plastic ring binder for easy future updates and in one stroke dashed my dreams that one day someone would start a Kickstarter campaign in their honour.”

Nick Clark, executive creative director, The Partners

“While the connoisseur of vintage corporate identity kicks back in their Eames original, listens to a carefully curated selection of important vinyl and sips a rare craft saison, I’d suggest that they would perhaps enjoy leafing through the guidelines for Banks & Miles’ British Telecom system, and also those for Modarelli’s NASA ‘worm’ logo – I’m hoping there was a set. I’m sure they’d also appreciate Rand’s unimplemented Ford identity played forward into a set of ‘might have been’ guidelines. Anyone up for that?”

Paul Bailey, Partner, 1977 Design
Paul Bailey, Partner, 1977 Design

“The role, and make-up, of ‘brand’ is evolving so fast that it is no surprise to me that designers fetishise corporate identity systems. They seem so finite, so perfect, so controllable (unlike much of ‘brand’ these days). However, even today these identity systems are an essential part of shaping and visually reflecting a brand, and as such I would actually love to see a very recent identity system published.

The London 2012 brand identity system from Wolff Olins was at first ridiculed, but once the myriad of applications were seen together during the Games it became a fantastic distillation of some key themes of the brand. Colourful, fun, dynamic, energetic – things that would not be considered stereotypically ‘British’.

To see this identity system, and its range of applications, in a coffee-table style book would act as a great reminder to me of a time when a brand managed to change the mood of a nation – for a while.”

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