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New British Gas identity fails to ignite.

Posted by: Typespec | Date added: Wed 19 Oct 2011

Nonflammable material: why the new British Gas brand identity fails to light the typographic touchpaper.

British Gas has a new logo and brand identity which will be rolling out over the coming months and this particular makeover is set to provoke more debate than normal. BG stands accused of corporate insensitivity and poor timing when this expensive re-branding exercise is played out against a backdrop of crushing domestic energy bills and claims of rampant profiteering. It also stands accused of design naivety in signing off a distinctly inept new logo.

Re-designing a logo of 17 years standing, the word mark of a national institution, is in many ways a poisoned chalice; you can be on a hiding to nothing and you're bound to ruffle a few feathers. It's certainly a challenge which should be tackled by identity professionals with years of typographic expertise under their belts or a consultancy savvy enough to employ the services of a trusted type designer.

So why then did British Gas opt to offer the job to an advertising agency, CHI & Partners, who out-pitched recognised brand consultants Landor and The Partners? What were they thinking? One look at the National Express logo produced by CHI should have been enough to make them turn on their heels. CHI already handle BG's advertising so in some respects it's a cosy arrangement but looking at the bigger picture are we now going to see a further blurring of the boundaries, more ad agencies taking on identity work and vice versa?

Design and typographic excellence has certainly been compromised in this instance. Chamfered to within an inch of its life, the new logo tries too hard to be the cool and clued-up modern parent but in the process comes across as the embarrassing old git in the baseball cap at a wedding. It's too gimmicky and already 10 years out of date, lacks cohesion, but probably ticked most of the client's cliched requirements. Eco-friendly abstract ribbon icon, CHECK! Super groovy curved-but-straight-but-angled-but-friendly type that makes us relevant today, CHECK!

The new word mark definitely has the 'design by committee' feel to it and lacks gravitas. It also relies too heavily on the new strapline, set in Eric Olson's excellent Klavika typeface (a properly considered approach to modern typography), to haul it over the finishing line.

With Landor and The Partners smirking in the wings I can offer a crumb of comfort to CHI and British Gas: the new identity is unlikely to interrupt my viewing of TV sport in quite the same way as the UniCredit logo does. Now there is a true abomination.

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