News analysis: The Made in Britain logo

The Made in Britain identity project has certainly been a PR triumph for kitchen company Stoves, which is behind the initiative and has got its name into pretty much every local and national paper in the UK. Some observers, however, have questioned whether the resulting logo is a fitting marque for UK design and even whether such a logo is needed at all.

Made in Britain

The Made in Britain marque, which launched last week, was designed by Nottingham University student Cynthia Lee, following a student competition run by Stoves. Lee received £200 and and LCD TV for winning the contest.

Hosted on the Stoves website, the logo is available to download for any companies or manufacturers who produce their products in the UK. Stoves says the application process ‘is designed to be self-policing’ and a spokeswoman for the company says those who use the logo will have to sign up to terms and conditions from the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, and will themselves be responsible for this.

Conservative MP for South Staffordshire Gavin Williamson, who had previously spoken in Parliament in support of the Stoves campaign, says, ‘I believe a Made in Britain marque is a great way to highlight what Britain does best and it is high time we showed how proud we are of our British businesses.’

Denver Hewlett, chief executive of Stoves, says, ‘We think that this logo really captures the essence of the campaign and will proudly be displaying it on our website and marketing material and encouraging other UK manufacturers to do the same.’

Companies including Cains Beer, Imperial Bathrooms and Screen Tek have reportedly already signed up to use the logo.

Leaving aside any aesthetic criticism of the identity (and one leading UK designer told Design Week the logo made them ‘recoil in horror’,) some observers have raised questions about the commissioning process and the intended use of the logo.

Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association, says, ‘The intentions are obviously good and Stoves have obviously commissioned something that works very well for them. What it isn’t is a national marque – clearly the DBA wouldn’t advocate a national logo being created by a design student.’

The Associate Parliamentary Group is currently running its own unrelated campaign to promote UK design and manufacturing – called Made By Britain. This project sees all MPs asked to nominate a product that is manufactured in their constituency. Nominations so far include custard creams (made in Carlisle) and the Mini (Oxford East).

APDIG manager Jocelyn Bailey says, ‘Our initiative relates much more to UK jobs.’ She describes the Made in Britain campaign as ‘a little shortsighted – in that global supply chains are really important. In the Made By Britain initiative a lot of MPs are suggesting componants that go into things – and even if you take something like fishfingers [made in Great Grimsby] the fish is imported, they’re only made in the UK.’

Made in Britain is clearly a buzz phrase at the moment – BBC economics supremo Evan Davis is currently presenting a TV series with that very title looking at the UK economy, and much of the activity can be traced back to Chancellor George Osborne’s pronouncement in March that ‘We want the words Made in Britain, Created in Britain, Designed in Britain and Invented in Britain to drive our nation forward.’

Dawton, who points to the Foreign Office-run Queen’s Award for Enterprise as one potential model for a national marque, says, ‘Going beyond what the marque actually looks like, it would need to be picked up and checked properly. The best thing would be if this latest campaign prompted action for something to exist officially.’

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  • Nick Barber November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I just wonder if the LCD TV won for designing the ‘Made in Britain’ marque was actually made in Britain?

  • Req November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “and one leading UK designer told Design Week the logo made them ‘recoil in horror’”

    How supportive of our design students we are!

    While I’d disagree with the process used by Stoves. And I’d envision something different for the logo, the above comment is a pretty stupid one to make.

  • Nathan Adams November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Ignoring the issue of design competitions just for a moment, I’m just curious about the prize.

    Obviously the objective of “Made In Britain” is to highlight British products and encourage people in the UK to buy locally made – so why was an LCD TV awarded as a prize (which was 99% likely not made in the UK)?

  • Theo Inglis November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Im a graphic design student and I never heard about this, Im sure most didn’t! The shortlisted designs are here;

    and they really aren’t very good. Very sure my peers at my uni and all the others could have done much better. The winning one is the most obvious choice, but Nottingham University don’t have a design course do they? Think they must have done a bad job promoting this competition, didn’t see a thing about it on D&AD or CR. Such a missed opportunity

  • Chris W November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Not another design competition. When will designers start to get paid for their talent and hard work? These poor students are being used to undermine the very industry they are trying to enter. From looking at the bad results they are typical of design commissioned (or should I say acquired) through this process.

  • Maros Holmes November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I’m quite shocked on a number of levels. I have a design studio and am a part-time lecturer at HE Level Graphics. Deborah Dawton’s comment is very offensive. Our students learn through live projects and produce amazing national standard work. The Made in Britain issue is very topical, but Stoves should know that the ‘Trading Standards Act’ does not exist – what do they mean? This opens up a whole new can of worms. I will watch this one unravel with interest.

  • Dominic Benson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “clearly the DBA wouldn’t advocate a national logo being created by a design student.”

    What!? Why?

  • Pannett November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I hope the DBA quote has been used wildly out of context otherwise I despair for how some people view students (i.e. from the vertical limit of an upturned nose)

  • Joe G November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Cynthia Lee is a Chemical & Environmental Engineering student, not a design student.

  • Kate Hills November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Whilst I am all for supporting UK manufacturing, in fact I even write a blog about it (, I think that this is a real missed opportunity.
    This logo may work well on engineering products but I can’t see it being used by anyone in the clothing sector for instance.
    The Made by Britain campaign is a similarly off the mark attempt at highlighting what Britain makes best. Do you know what the MP for South Staffs (mentioned above) actually nominated as the product that defined what his constituency made best? McCain Smiles! Is a processed potato product really the best that he could come up with?
    Where are Mulberry in the Made by Britain list? One of the countries highest rising stocks who make 30% of their products in the UK and they didn’t even get a mention!

  • Designer Tim November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It seems odd that the final chosen logo wasn’t crafted by a professional afterwards. Don’t have a problem with students designing things, we even have an active student program within our agency. Just feel that a bit of crafting would have helped make it look more modern and removed the kinks in the lines of the ribbon etc!

    This logo is not something Britain should be proud of nor will it make me want to buy a product with this logo on.

    It is simply a case of Stoves being cheap, it really looks like someone spent £200 on it!

  • david moody November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I love it when people get on their soapbox and try to praise Britain for its design and manufacturing prowess. Lets be honest, Britain makes very little these days and isn’t helped by very few wanting to choose manufacturing and industry as a career. As for design, we are leading the world but then why do we have a logo designed by a student as the identity when there are so many fantastic design agencies out there. I’ll tell you why because its another case of doing it on the cheap again instead of investing.

  • Michael November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I support what Deborah has said. Whilst we should support our students, leaving something as potentially important as the mark in the hands of someone so inexperienced is sheer folly. I am somewhat cynical about Stove’s motives on this one too. Clearly they have had a huge amount of PR off the back of this very cheap (skate) initiative and have failed to make a proper job of running the competition. Seems to me it may well backfire on them.

  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Goodness me. It is so easy to be an armchair critic.
    I have read so many blogs and comments surrounding the pro’s and cons of messages and moniker’s regards Made In Britain, Created in Britain and so forth.
    For the record when I worked for a now merged agency Associated Design Consultants in the 80’s – we launched a ‘Made in Britain’ campaign and logo.
    It got crushed by the then Design Council CEO Ivor Owens and the CBI who backed it then withdrew support. Design Week reported on it in letters pages.

    It was blocked by those who positioned themselves as the ‘opinion formers’ and ‘official bods’ yet who had failed to take any appropriate ‘positive action’ themselves, despite significant funding and their responisibity .
    Just talk and suggestion but little action.

    However when someone takes a lead – they are first to wade in and criticise. Oh how so very British.

    I don’t know Stoves intent but I would wager that it was genuine. Give them credit. Did they go about it in the right way? Perhaps perhaps not but at least they got off their arse and did something positive

    Can a student deliver an iconic visual solution ? Why not?
    They are the future – and afterall, designers have natural borne talent, regardeless of age

    Were they guided and mentored as much as they could have been if they had been paired with an iconic professional designer – probably not.
    However the student designer without that benefit did the best job she could. Give her credit – don’t crush her due to subjective and intellectual opinion of arm chair critics.

    The DBA role is to bat on the side of its professional membership. No surprise therefore regards the CEO comments.

    Misplaced perhaps in context of vanilla dismissal of students but relevant in context of pairing the student with experience to enhance their work.

    However, how many design firms would have been agreeable to mentoring the student, getting involved in the competition, supporting Stoves and so on and so forth. Few if any. Why? –

    Far too busy – and needing commercial income and overhead focus not to be interupted by extra-curricular activity.

    So it becomes an impasse. And so much easier to dedicate time to criticising the unsupported results than guiding a better outcome.

    Its a conundrum – no-one is wholly at fault – everyone was trying to make a difference against an inaccessible government talking shop.

    Someone, Stoves, took action, and for that they are criticised. Students took action and particpated, and the winner, criticised.

    And what did others do – the leaders, the opinion formers, the official people paid to initiate solutions – they criticsed those that took action and got on with it.

    How very typical, Well done Stoves and well done to the winning student – at least you saw the change in the future, believed in it, took action and didn’t accept the inertia to stand in your way.

    That is the nature of innovation – if you spout it, live it.

  • Deborah Dawton November 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t think we can assume that everyone out there knows how to commission appropriate design. And I don’t think anyone involved in this meant any harm by it. In fact, I think the idea is a brilliant one. If consumers want to know that they’re supporting UK industry in their choice of products or services, this is a great way of doing it.

    The UK is ninth in the world manufacturing league table, so there are plenty of businesses that could benefit from this. And we’d love to see the UK move up the league table through the commissioning of great design that leads to better products and services and more competitive British businesses.

    That aside, we also have great design institutions in this country, great design educators and great design students. And there is, of course, a place for “live” briefs as a means of developing all sorts of skills in talented individuals who will one day themselves practice as professionals in the design industry. Unfortunately, “live” briefs are also prevalent as a means of getting design work for cheap. And why don’t I condone this?

    For the same reason that I wouldn’t ask a medical student to carry out heart bypass surgery on me. I wouldn’t ask an unqualified designer to design me a logo particularly if, as this one should, it had to work as a marque of distinction for British businesses globally. Undergraduates can bring no experience to something this important.

    I referred to the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. The logo was the product of a competition aimed at students and professionals alike. That we couldn’t change–Tony Blair decreed it! But the judges, all leading lights in the design industry, felt that there was nothing appropriate submitted. Largely, the professionals boycotted the competition – the brief was inadequate, there was no client, there was no payment, government had assumed that kudos alone would win designers over…all things that the DBA actively discourages. So we awarded two students that showed real potential a three-week placement at The Partners, and with their guidance, they crafted a beautiful marque, one worthy of replacing the Abram Games marque of 40 years earlier. Ironically, in this case commissioning the work directly would have cost a third of the price the FCO paid for running a nation-wide competition.

    There will always be exceptions. That’s the context within which I said what I said to Design Week. Clearly they can’t print the whole conversation.

  • Design Eduactor November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Deborah Dawton’s comment is offensive.

    Carolyn Davidson designed the Nike ‘Swoosh’ while a graphic design student at Portland in 1971.

    You don’t need experience to come up with a good idea, but you do, to get the best out of it.

    The people at Stove’s are responsible for this, and the poor student who felt like a winner is now being made to feel like the exact opposite.

    What a shame for her.

  • David Airey November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Thanks for elaborating, Deborah. I think this quote of yours would’ve been more appropriate:

    “I wouldn’t ask an unqualified designer to design me a logo particularly if, as this one should, it had to work as a marque of distinction for British businesses globally. Undergraduates can bring no experience to something this important.”

    I like the Made in Britain initiative, but not the execution.

  • Lord Kitchener November 19, 2013 at 4:15 am

    What a nasty little article.

    Ok so a load of ‘opinion formers’ get appalled by a logo they don’t like and end up slating the student and leaping to the conclusion that students shouldn’t be encouraged, nay allowed to design anything important…

    Ok so the logo isn’t brilliant, maybe they made the mistake of thinking they had to award it to someone, instead of declaring that none were of standard and either closing the competition, getting the professionals in to help or extending the challenge.(and yes that does happen in competitions).

    But I suspect that would have been embarrassing and inconvenient to the sponsor at the very least.

    But because this item isn’t up to the standard that the ‘design community’ (surely an oxymoron) expects, it follows that students can’t design great things? Maybe the real fault is in the organisation of the competition, the lack of seasoned supervision in developing the winning idea into a viable marque after the winner had been announced, but before revealing the final vision.

    I note the interesting use of the word ‘unqualified’.
    Complete rubbish!

    There is as we all know NO qualification to be a Designer.
    Oh you mean a degree?
    Well from where?
    And even then some undergraduates produce work better than seasoned ‘professionals’ at work in the UK today.

    How many designers have been to New Blood, New Designers and countless degree shows and thought ‘bloody hell they’re a bit good!’.

    So someone working in the actual design industry?
    Well for how long?
    And have they been working on the ‘right’ things?
    In the right ‘respected’ and ‘notable’ firms?

    Surely someone needs to clarify the criteria for working on these ‘great’ and ‘notable’ projects so lesser mortals can stay well clear of them and leave them to those judged worthy of working on them.

    If we follow this logic then architecture, engineering and product designers shouldn’t be advocated to design live projects either. Vehicle design students are lauded for their prototypes, and several industrial designers student work actually become real developed products and sell worldwide every year.

    Blanket statements like that in the article above are banal and lazy and do no one any credit.

    Medical students perform challenging procedures like a heart bypass frequently. They do it under supervision, because that’s how they learn.

    Equating a situation of life and death with logo creation is facile. If you don’t like the results of a heart op then there’s a high chance you’re dead or well on the way to meeting your maker, very few second chances.

    If however you don’t like the logos that a student competition or your panel of branding agencies have presented then guess what?
    You either withhold the prize/contract or you ask them to try again. Unlike a heart operation where you have a very exact predetermined outcome as your goal, a design competition/tender is actively encouraging innovation and the unexpected.

    Do we really think that all the answers are within the established design royalty?

    Surely being a creative is recognising that good ideas don’t care who they happen to? This was a design competition, not a design and implementation competition to my knowledge. I totally agree that having someone like The Partners develop the core idea, refine it and polish it before releasing into the wild is an excellent idea – and probably what was missing in the original example – but a wholesale ban on student participation is very poor.

    As for undergraduates ‘can bring no experience to something this important’. Really?

    What experience can undergraduates bring of anything to any project?
    And if you need experience in something in order to design for it then that radically limits the ability of a hell of a lot of designers. A lot of great design stems from someone taking a whole new look at something, of not letting their preconceptions get in the way.
    So many innovations and inventions have resulted in the questions ‘what if I just . . . .?’

    Part of the design process for both students AND practitioners is to investigate, explore and challenge the brief. Do any practitioners think they could have gone straight into the creative process with the inherent ‘experience’ that its implied they have on this subject immediately?

    Remember when Seymour Powell redesigned the bra for TV. They’d never done a bra before, and were (obviously) unqualified to bring any immediate experience of the product. So they did their homework, they experimented and developed – the whole point of the programme was them taking a fresh, outsiders look at ordinary objects and seeing where it led (that’s the unknown again see!)

    It would be pretty interesting to really see what young designers really think of a marque to represent manufacturing Britain. Though sadly this wasn’t the competition to explore this, I lament that we’ve missed a chance to actually explore that with design students on a wider canvas, as this competition seems poorly advertised, funded and resolved.

    But neither was it an invitation to make crass generalisations.
    At this point I don’t think anyone can win from this article.

  • Michael Greenland November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s one manufacturer getting a logo done. No big deal. We all know it’s not a national marque. And Deborah is right on the student issue.

    The real point – why did this generate the press coverage that it did? Because as a idea, it was the right thing to do at the right time.

    ‘Made in Britain’ requires a marque, right now, crafted by the finest designer, and paid for at the right price.

    As a nation, we are widely regarded internationally for our great design. It’s time to stop arguing amongst ourselves and start telling the world just how good we really are.

    P.S. Maybe it’s just me. But they’ve missed off the word ‘Great’

  • Crystal November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Christ, the entries must have been chronic for this to win!
    Then again, this is what you would get for £200+a tv.

  • Blizzard November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Anonymous wall of text crits for 250k

  • steveg November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “clearly the DBA wouldn’t advocate a national logo being created by a design student.”

    what an insult to today’s young aspiring graphic designers, come down from your ivory towers!

  • David November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “clearly the DBA wouldn’t advocate a national logo being created by a design student”

    And if she were in charge of a cancer research foundation, clearly she wouldn’t accept a cure if it came from a student?

    “When will designers start to get paid for their talent and hard work?” – Like one tell’s their employees – you’re raise is effective when you are! Competitions are good for exposure if you win and capitalize on it immediately and follow-up with more, consistently good work. Competitions allow people to do work they love to do but don’t currently get paid for. They can populate their portfolio with this work and attract more people who like this work. No one has to enter. They are what they are, use them or leave them alone. I agree that a lot of bad work comes out of them though and the winners can sometimes look good but function very poorly. Design isn’t finished until someone is using it – THEN you know if it is good design and not just pretty.

  • Debbie November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I quite like to logo. It’s not perfect, there are flaws, but it’s not bad.

    And I, for one, will be using it. (And shock, horror, I make clothing.)

    “I wouldn’t ask an unqualified designer to design me a logo”

    No? I find that interesting.
    Given that some of the most innovative and influential designers in all fields have been entirely unqualified.

    And given that some of the most horrific blunders in design have been carried out by “qualified” designers (Olympics logo? Possibly a fave if you’re a fan of the Simpsons – or not…)

    The mark may not last, but it’s better than nothing. Those involved have got up off their behinds and done something on the subject. Until those criticising above have done likewise, their opinions are of next to no meaning.

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