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Waterstones reveals new (old) logo

Waterstones signage
Signage mockup showing the apostrophe-free wordmark

In May 2010, the UK’s largest high street bookseller Waterstones launched a new brand identity. The design work was created by London-based venturethree.

Waterstones logo venturethree
venturethree’s 2010 design

Waterstones logo venturethree

The following was added to the Waterstones press office yesterday (11th January):

Waterstones, the UK’s largest high street bookseller, has today revealed a new logo for the company. It reinstates the much-loved Baskerville serif font with a capital W and no longer features an apostrophe.

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones said: “Waterstones is an iconic brand deserving a capital W, and a font that reflects authority and confidence — Baskerville does just that.”

“Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling. It also reflects an altogether truer picture of our business today which, while created by one, is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers.”

The new design and spelling of the Waterstones logo will gradually be implemented in all written communication, display material, online and shop fits and refurbishments.

Waterstones logo evolution
Waterstones logo evolution

The move “sparked outrage” (Daily Mail) among those who insist the apostrophe should remain. John Richards, chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society said, “It’s just plain wrong. It’s grammatically incorrect. If Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s can get it right, then why can’t Waterstone’s? You would really hope that a bookshop is the last place to be so slapdash with English.”

Tim Waterstone launched the company in 1982 using £6,000 of redundancy money from WH Smith, before selling to his former employer for £47M 11 years later.

According to The Bookseller, the lower case FS Albert Pro logo by venturethree had only been transferred onto 25 of the company’s 310 stores. If correct, it’ll be less expensive to revert to the old design than to continue with the lower-case roll-out.

I can only guess at what the 2009/10? design brief was, but if Waterstones asked for a fresh, more dynamic identity, venturethree certainly delivered. Saying that, and from an outsider’s viewpoint, I was never convinced of the need to change.

Reported elsewhere:
Waterstones ditches apostrophe, on The Telegraph
Waterstones gives up on its apostrophe, on Mail Online
The Waterstone’s apostrophe. Who care’s? on Plain Text
Apostrophcalypse now, on Asbury & Asbury
Out with the old and in with the old, on CR Blog

Update:
An employee at Waterstones Oxford Street spotted the abandoned apostrophe while walking to work.

Waterstones apostrophe

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

14 appreciated comments

  1. Probably the easiest decision they’ve ever made. I bet there was a lot of back-patting here.

  2. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. The only thing about the Waterstone’s re-brand that I appreciated was the brandline, ‘feel every word’. I hope Waterstones have the good sense to keep it…

  3. This is a logical decision now that Waterstones is no longer owned by HMV Group; the similarity between the m of HMV and the w is no longer relevant.

  4. I always felt the redesign was related to the demise of Borders – a quick reaction to find a curvier brand identify to pick up the audience more used to Border’s more casual approach.

    The flexibility of the new design was great, but it wasn’t recognisable and bar the word storm example, used in irrelevant ways (the blue and red paint examples above).

    Answered the brief,but perhaps the brief missed the point?

  5. TJ

    Going back to Baskerville = good move. A bookish font is befitting a bookstore. Ditching the apostrophe…well, it’s visually more appealing, but incredibly hypocritical given the nature of the business. Folks will either hate it or be indifferent to it…no one will necessarily love it.

  6. Well I think that one needs to move with the times. It’s all very well saying that using an apostrophe is the correct way to present the word ‘Waterstones’, however, we live in a world of online as well as offline shopping and an apostrophe is one of many characters that aren’t useable within a URL – also, isn’t it Waterstones decision how their name should be presented?

    I beseech thee to remember what thou hath wrought by removing the apostrophe from betwixt the “e” and the “s” hither. Naught shalt be gained by behaving in such a tallt manner, nor tarry in memory of how the language was in days of yore…

    The language is a constantly evolving thing and the benefit of removing the apostrophe is that I shall no longer be annoyed by the idiots that can’t tell the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re and worst of all those who write FAQ’s…

  7. I’m happy they went back to the orignal brand I didn’t really feel that the new rebrand represented the heritage of Waterstones.

    As @miles pointed out it seem more logical now that its not owned by HMV which is currently in trouble themselves.

    The apostrophe issue may have to be something we live with on this case.

  8. I was liking the more modern “W” but Miles not knowing the history of the company, that totally does make sense. It would be really interesting to see the back & forth that made them arrive to the final decision to “keep” the w & the same font.

  9. Johnthefreelancer

    I always thought the rounded ‘W’ looked like a pair of droopy breasts. But maybe that’s just indicative of how my mind generally works.

  10. Jon

    Good move to go back to the old styling, but a business so closely tied in to the English language really should use correct punctuation and grammar.

  11. oh goodness, I was reading, and not being from the UK, saw the 2010 version as the new one. Imagine my relief when I read further and saw they went back to Baskerville, what a good move! As others have said, they shouldn’t have changed it in the first place. That 2010 version, IMO, is terrible for a book store.
    As for the apostrophe, I am indifferent. I guess it could mean Waterstone owns this (with ‘) or these are multiple Waterstones (without ‘). And as Adam above so brilliantly put it, they should be able to decide themselves how to present the name of their business.

  12. Meredith

    The Apostrophe Protection Society???

  13. Overall, a great move to go back to Baskerville. The rounded “w” look seemed like a stretch and didn’t work given the history of the company and the nature of their business.

    As far as the apostrophe, I completely agree with the decision. When you read the rationale presented by James Daunt, it makes perfect sense. This isn’t about being “slapdash” with the English language. It’s about embracing the concept of thousands of individual booksellers working as one. Each bookseller is Waterstone unto itself.

  14. Michelle

    @Adam as one who gets annoyed by “idiots that can’t tell the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re” you really should have remembered to include the apostrophe in “Waterstones decision”. Even without the apostrophe in the company name, the decision belongs to Waterstones and so this should be “Waterstones’ decision”.
    Just saying…


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