Despite the legacy name, British Steel Ltd is a new company established in 2016 after investment group Greybull Capital purchased the “Long Products Europe” business from Tata Steel. Tata Steel came to indirectly own British Steel in 2007 when it acquired Corus Group, which was a merger between the original British Steel (established in 1967) and Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens in 1999. As the name implies, British Steel specializes in producing steel… long, looooong pieces of steel like rail train tracks or wire rods that go on for days or those visible (and hidden) pieces of steel you see (or don’t see, I guess) on buildings. The company has over 4,000 employees across multiple factories and sales centers. Although they revived the name, they didn’t revive the old logo and launched with a new identity designed by Lincoln, England-based Ruddocks.
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.
Core values of “pride, passion and performance” have been imbued into the icon, according to Ruddocks, which has offset the orange against a cooler navy colour to show steel in its molten and hardened states but also to show how the company is vibrant and exciting (orange), and “cool, professional and committed” (blue/grey).
With the adopted name, it’s impossible to not want to compare the new logo against the old logo designed in 1969 by David Gentleman and used for 30 years until the company merged and the British Steel name disappeared. The old logo is one of those most designers will cite as the epitome of logo design and consider untouchable. The logo shows two sheets of metal being bent, depicting an “S” for steel. Simple, bold, and now iconic. (How long before there is a reissue of its standards manual?) But that doesn’t mean the logo is right for a new company trying to establish its own, well, identity. It could be argued that if they already chose the old name they might as well use the old logo too but I think that using a new logo yields them the best of both worlds: building on an established name but signaling this is a new company.
The new logo is fine and I would say it represents better what British Steel does than the old logo. With the old logo I think sheets of metal I could buy at Home Depot, take home, and do something with them. It didn’t feel massive. The new logo captures better the sense of slabs of steel lined from here to far away and cropped inside a “B” shape. It’s not a groundbreaking logo but it’s well suited and decently executed. The wordmark is wrong though, as it looks like VAG Rounded wearing a suit and tie trying to get a job it’s not meant to have. The rounded sans serif is too friendly. It’s also typeset far too tight. But whatever problems I have with the new logo pale in comparison with the literal hatred Michael Wolff has for it:
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.
In a letter sent to and published by It’s Nice That, Michael goes to great lengths in pointing out how “deplorable” the logo is insulting both designers and clients personally as ignorant and hapless. I’ve said some bad things about logos but this makes me look like Paula Abdul on American Idol (she liked everyone and was so nice as opposed to, you know, that other judge). There is clearly personal emotion coming through in that letter and an implied admiration for the old logo that the new logo can’t match. It feels like such a misguided place to put so much anger. There are dozens of logos for equally large and renown companies that are equal or worse in their design and rationalization that, to pick a fight with this one, feels overblown, especially when it’s attempting to stand up for a logo that has been out of circulation for 17 years. At least it makes for excellent blogging content.
In application, the identity is perfectly, corporately fine and acceptable. The monogram’s shape is echoed with fields of color and photographs cropped at the same angle and the bad wordmark is echoed in also bland and too-tight typography but, again, it passes off as fine. The dark, blue-ish gray and bright orange color work well together and do manage to capture the idea of “molten steel” being poured inside a dark factory. Overall, not to sound like a broken record, this is fine — edging more towards good than bad — and the biggest problem of the logo is that it’s not the old logo but I doubt the 4,000-plus workers whose jobs were salvaged from this corporate purchase and the establishment of a new company really care about that.