Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

32 boroughs of London

Greater London has 32 boroughs, each with their own logo.

London borough logos

Messy, isn’t it?

What’s wrong with simply showing each name in a relevant, perhaps custom-made, typeface? Or you could argue that enough taxpayer money has been spent on these designs already. Especially as London as a whole has yet another separate mark.

Via this recent post on Noisy Decent Graphics: This tshirt proves why councils and indeed many Government organisations shouldn’t have “logos.”

T-shirt available from T-SHIRT PARTY.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

23 appreciated comments

  1. It’s important Councils communicate all the good things they do (assuming they do at least some good things). A logo is an important part of that communication, no?

  2. paul

    Agree ^^^, councils need to communicate BUT 32 logos for london?

    My background is Local Gov comms (Design) so I think I have good insight into inefficiencies within comms.

    Could ‘all’ council’s not use a single mark? … something that is recognised nationwide and communicates the aim of local goverrment as a whole. Given a local council communicates with it’s local residents the end user wouldn’t need to worry about which council it came from as the user would recognise the mark as one that represents their own council.

    I think the same could be applied to other areas of marketing materials. Why should each have a unique website when surely one excellent design (with some small adaptions) could work for everyone?

    Staff are too focused on working independently and having unique designs. I’d rather have something that isn’t unique if it works well and gives the right impression.

    A Local Goverment ‘Design Toolkit’ could save a lot of time and effort for items that really don’t need to be unique. Rolled out nationally it would surely make efficiency savings?

  3. It is, Aaron, but I’d also expect there to be a lot of collaboration between each of the 32 boroughs, so is it necessary that their identities are so disparate? The name is a perfect differentiator. Why not use a wordmark (which a few already do)?

  4. I see your point David, and I’d actually quite like to see that. Having a united symbol that each of the councils could use and simply have their area name with it, it would be much tidier and not to mention, would look pretty smart.

  5. But David, if only organizations that *needed* logos commissioned them, how many designers could ever afford to move out of their mum’s place?

    ;)

  6. Yes, the t-shirt as a whole is messy, however it shows that each of these places is unique and different. And as for the messy of the t-shirt, for a marketing campaign this drew your attention enough to create a blog post about it. And now many other people are seeing this from all over the world (I’m in US). If this t-shirt was representing a single company or entity it would be a fail, but since it is representing that this “One City” has so many different things to offer, it gets the message across. Well, in my opinion it works.

  7. Also, many people have visual memories (which is why most of us designers have jobs) and they are more likely to remember a picture with words, rather than just the words themselves. As children, a lot of our learning revolves around images because they are easier for us to remember.
    On that note, government facilities each have their own unique logos so that people are more likely to associate it with what kind of government facility it is. If on this t-shirt, they had created completely new logo designs for the t-shirt as a whole, people would not notice that it was about government places or whatever, whereas now I’m sure that anyone who knows even of one of these places could recognize the logo, even if it is not within visible text reading range.
    I don’t actually know of any of these places since I’m not from London, however since I was always a visual learner and have a pretty decent memory, I will probably recognize at least one of these logos the next time I see it.

  8. A similar case in point is Moon Brand’s work from 1990 on the NHS identity system — many separate-but-related departments, nationwide.

    “By the NHS’ own reckoning, the branding program has saved tens of millions in pounds.”

    ~ Richard Moon, director, Moon Brand

    The NHS still has a simple, distinctive identity, yet the system ties together the visual appearance of the UK’s largest employer (at least, I believe it’s the largest employer).

  9. Kendra, it’s not important to have a “picture.” We still remember how words appear. Think of Google, Coca-Cola, Sony, IBM. The wordmarks are the picture.

  10. yes, but the words and colors are visually stimulating and unique. I guess by typing “picture” I didn’t necessarily mean a picture of something. Just a memorable visual image.

  11. I’m not sure boroughs do talk to one another. My local one doesn’t seem to talk to itself it’s at times so disorganised!

    They are a mess aren’t they. But all the boroughs are quite different so I’m not sure one comprehensive identity will work and politically it would be a nightmare. But they are all rather corporate and big brother in feel, none are friendly, human or on the other end of the scale efficient. All the councils seem to love sticking their logo on everything without any real thought as to why.

    Often these boroughs are so large that it feels like you are being ruled over by a big brother authority rather than your own individual area.

    I suppose it depends on whether the identity is about enthusing the workers or the people paying taxes. And how good the local authority is. If it’s no good then it doesn’t matter what the identity is like, people will associate it with their experience of the services they get (as with any identity).

  12. paul

    The fact that the Boroughs may be unique does not mean what they all offer is unique ….. some may offer more services, some less but to some extent a library is a library, a social worker a social worker regardless of location.

    Does identity change with geography? I don’t think so …. the offer isn’t unique (just like NHS), yes some areas deliver services better than others but they all offer the same thing so why badge it as being different? why distance yourself from neighbouring areas with different logos? were all meant to be working to the same goal.

  13. paul

    In terms of the NHS – I’ve seen 2 variations of a local NHS partnership logo. One being standard NHS and correct, the other I expect the result of someone not wanting to conform and the logo having no visual link to the NHS whatsoever. To make matters worse when brought to the attention of staff from the particular NHS body that they wanted 2 different logos (that meant the same thing) on the same poster our advice was just ignored and we were told they both had to be used. Too many people getting involved in areas of work that don’t concern them :-) ….. and are allowed to get away with it.

  14. You make an extremely valid point, Paul. In that sense, a standard of logo making would probably be a good idea.

  15. nathan

    This, and the Olympics…

    London needs some graphic designers with brains.

    I feel, almost, bad for them.

  16. Have you seen this, David?
    This is the new Hansens soda can redesign.

    http://www.creativepro.com/node/66504

    I thought It might be blog-worthy.

  17. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘does identity change with geography, I don’t think so’ Paul, care to elaborate?.

  18. paul

    Hi Lee, got my words mixed up sorry ……. what I was supposed to say was ‘does the offer change with geography’? I must check my posts better before submitting!

    Lets say Supermarkets, they sell food etc etc and you get the same product with the same branding regardless of geography. My point is that to some extent Local Goverment (LG) is the same, LG supply core services that must be delivered by each (eg Bin Collections or Social Services). I know different areas may deliver a better or worse bin collection than their neighbouring authority but the basic service is the same. Therefore if all LG is offering the same why badge it differently.

    The logos are so different probably because different ones try to communicate different things ie one communicates location, another maybe the objective of the service …… they all need to say one thing and I don’t really it needs to be ‘location’

  19. Dec

    It would cost thousands, if not millions, to change all these to a standardised version. Yes, you could replace stationery when it runs out but think of all the signage, vehicles and everything else these council logos will appear on. The press would have a field day as ever.

    Standardised logos can work well in an organisation with decent design awareness. For example, the BBC’s regional logos (not including Barnet, above!).

    The problem in the NHS, and other large Public Sector bodies, is they have low design awareness so constantly use their own logo wrongly and managers commission variants that don’t fit the style.

    Also the English NHS ‘lozenge’ is dull as – it’s almost impossible to use a blue rectangle in a recognisable way in design applications. So most areas develop very different branding of their own (with sunflowers, squiggles, etc.). This will probably get worse when England’s Primary Care services are handed to GPs (who are basically independent businesses).

    NHS Scotland has a logo with a decent curved graphic (aka the ‘dead seagull’!) that most areas use in their design applications. So separate areas automatically look more consistent. It’s not perfect as it doesn’t handle long names very well. But most designs like this are a compromise – it’s hard to strike a balance.

  20. paul

    Hi Dec, you have a point in terms of cost to roll out, however it’s not so much about rolling out with immediate effect but taking a longer view.

    The current cost of agencies and local government design studios across the country would dwarf the figures you mention (cost of time spent reinventing wheels). Rolling out design templates / guidlelines via the web would only cost for creative.

    Putting my own interests to one side I know we can work smarter in these areas. We’ve done it when using national campaign materials instead of ‘reinventing the wheel’. It’s so much quicker to produce and as effect it not more. The designer can then put more creative into the items that are not ‘core’.

    Websites – people are employed to score them and then councils improve them based on feedback. Is it necessary to employ people to score sites when one .gov approved version could cut out all the bureaucracy.

    I don’t want to do myself out of a job BUT I know from experience the waste and inefficient ways we operate.

    NHS – Dull as it may be BUT I know what it is and to some extent that is what counts. If and when I need to go into hospital I won’t be worrying about the logo and a different logo won’t make me feel better :-)

  21. Dec

    Hi Paul – didn’t notice you’d replied. Maybe I should’ve said I work in the NHS in Scotland. The theory is fine but I know from experience the practical issues that come up. I was just trying to point those out.

    None of those are about the consumer/service user – they’re all about staff. I know in a perfect world it wouldn’t be about that but you need staff on side. It’s an ongoing problem with the NHS ID so it would be similar with your idea for local authorities.

    I agree with you about how it should work. But for that you need a lot of ‘policing’ throughout the whole organisation (where most managers/officers won’t know/care) and sharp in-house designers.

    From what I hear on DIHNet, the NHS in England is currently making many of its remaining in-house designers redundant. It will almost certainly spend far more taxpayers money on buying in design agencies. Historically, agencies haven’t cared much about following the branding rules.

    It’s close to being the death of in-house design in the English NHS. And the rise of more commercial GP consortia and ‘social enterprises’ where ‘ID enforcement’ may be even more difficult. Why not write about that instead of some local government ‘brand unification’ that isn’t even on the horizon?

  22. Paul

    Hi Dec,

    I totally appreciate your point ….. and your totally right about staff being the problem (I know from experience) . You do need all staff on side and strict policing. I was just trying to point out the probable inefficiencies of design in Local Government.

    As far as I know we are doing the opposite and trying to work with our local partners whether that be NHS or Local Councils. Contracts with agencies will not be renewed as we look to deliver as much in-house as possible.

  23. Having now worked with a good proportion of these boroughs, I believe they should all be different. London is made up of lots of different towns and villages that eventually have become part of one large city.

    Croydon delivers services for Croydon, not Brent or Barnet, or Barking or Hillingdon or Hounslow or Harrow.

    Difference should be celebrated. Within each borough I believe each area should have it’s own identity and identity is far more than a logo.

    London may be one city, but it’s a diverse, complicated, historic, modern, backward, forward, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, friendly, unfriendly, fun, sad place. It’s not IBM.


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