News / Graphic Design

“A great disservice to the design business”: Michael Wolff on the British Steel rebrand

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This week the rebrand of British Steel was unveiled by Lincoln-based studio Ruddocks. In a passionate letter to It’s Nice That, Wolff Olins director and founder Michael Wolff criticised the new design as “deplorable” and a “disservice to the design business generally.” The full letter is published below. The new design was launched following the sale of the company for £1 after Greybull Capital reached a sale agreement with previous owners Tata Steel – an agreement which is expected to save many jobs and sustain the industry with a £400m investment package.

The new logo combines the B and S letterforms set in ‘molten orange’, designed to look like three strips of steel and to represent the core company values, against a cool navy background. “Our new brand represents everything we stand for – pride, passion and performance,” British Steel commercial director Peter Hogg told the Lincolnshire Echo. “We have a proud past but today is about the future and our brand represents a vibrant new business, renowned for producing world class steel and first class customer service.”

Let us know what you think of the new design in the comments section.

Letter from Michael Wolff

“It’s a very sad day for such an important British industrial phoenix and also for the universal world of design generally. This banal replacement to David Gentleman’s classic British Steel symbol plunges contemporary British graphics to an abysmally low place.

British Steel’s new mark is the kind of vacuous, glib and un-rooted design that some design companies and their ignorant and hapless clients are capable of inflicting on the world. Whoever was involved in this shocking work should be ashamed of lumbering this crucial resuscitation of a core British industry with such unimaginative, barren and mediocre work.

To say that “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” is embarrassing and illiterate nonsense.

I haven’t heard the word deplorable used for many years, but this piece of graphic design warrants the use of this unfashionable word. This is profoundly deplorable work. It does a great disservice to the design business generally, it dents the proud claim that the UK is among the leaders in international graphic design and it sullies the reputation of the remnants of the UK’s great industrial brands.”

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Ruddocks: British Steel

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Ruddocks: British Steel

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David Gentleman: British Steel (1969)