Established in 1968 when National Provincial Bank, Westminster Bank, and District Bank came together to form National Westminster Bank, NatWest (as it’s now known) is a large retail and commercial bank in the UK with over 14 million customers and has been part of Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the UK’s Big Four banks, since 2000. As a bit of trivia for London outsiders (and perhaps even some locals), NatWest built a corporate tower in 1980 that the footprint was designed around its logo; the building now houses other companies. To coincide with a new campaign — We are What we Do — NatWest recently introduced a revised logo designed by the London office of Futurebrand.
Creatively, NatWest has never been scared of going against the grain, proven by the original 3D logo we found in their 1968 guidelines - buried deep in the RBS archives. Originally designed as three interlocking cubes to represent the coming together of three separate banks, we’re now unlocking the power of the individual cube as one of the core visual assets. Demonstrative, animated and colourful, it’s the perfect vehicle to show the bank’s proactive personality.
From a humble cube we’ve literally got the building blocks to tell all manner of compelling stories. Our visual identity uses this simple idea to illustrate almost anything imaginable - to build a unique world for its customers.
Futurebrand provided press release
The old logo has had remarkable staying power, remaining mostly unchanged for over 35 years; which is what can usually happen to ambiguous bank logos designed in the 1960s that, by not meaning anything specifically, can withstand time. (I’m looking at you Chase logo.) In its most recent iteration, the corners had been rounded for a softer approach that made it look more like chevrons doing a recycle icon dance. Based on the text of the archive guidelines, the logo was meant to be arrowheads and not cubes so even though the new logo is a subtle graphical update it completely changes the interpretation. Conceptually, arrows are better (in terms of pitching it to clients and explaining it in press releases) because they imply mobility whereas cubes are more static, but they also imply solidity, which is what this is going for. I like it when corporations revive something from its past; pulling something from the original guidelines is extra dorky for designers and is especially pleasing when the result has a contemporary spin to it. The red and purple combination looks great on the cubes and works particularly good on the purple background; not so well when it’s on white (as the header image). I wish the gradient were more of a coarse halftone screen instead of just a regular gradient so that it mimicked the original source a little bit more. The wordmark remains the same as the last version but the lock-up has changed so that the cubes are much more imposing, which feels a little aggressive for the general consumer (but I don’t mind it).
The language of the cubes is extended through a custom alphabet and illustration style. Given how moody the purple background logo looked it would have been nice to continue with that aesthetic instead of the much happier-colored approach they went with. The shapes of the type and illustration are cool but the color palette makes it look too youthful and playful. Sticking with darker, richer colors would have given this a killer vibe. Also, not to champion gradients, but the gradients are missing from these which maybe would have been repetitive but would have tied all of the elements together.
The newspaper print ad is the one application that hints at how cool this could be with a darker, grainier approach (paging Matt Stevens) for both logo and illustrations. The applications are not bad at all, though, and they are quite bold and graphic for a bank while also nailing the purple and red color palette to the bank and establish a quick association. Overall, a pleasing update that infuses the logo with a new story and a visual language that sets the road for engaging applications now and in the future.