National Trust branding: instantly recognisable, 50 years later

Published on 31 August 2011 in , , ,

Here’s a question for you. Do you know what the Coca-cola logo is like? How about the British Rail logo, still used for the UK’s rail network? Of course you do. And I bet even a significant number of readers who live outside London would even recognise the roundel used on the Underground.

A good brand is worth its weight in gold. Timeless. Barely changes.

Earlier this year I was in the Lake District, climbing Black Fell. And at the top of the hill was a trig point. Attached to that trig point was a sign. A sign with a logo. The National Trust logo.

Trig point on the top of Black Fell

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Those signs marking a National Trust property probably wouldn’t hit most peoples lists of utterly brilliant branding, but they are. They’re instantly recognisable even from afar. If you see that sign, you know exactly what it means. That circle/rectangle combination shape. That oak leaf. It stands for something. Something important.

What I didn’t realise was how long the National Trust had been using them until that day. Standing on that trig point holding a trusty copy of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Southern Lakeland Fells, I found out it had been a long time. Inside those hallowed pages was a drawing of the very same trig point. With the very same National Trust sign on it. How brilliant.

A Wainwright's depiction of a National Trust logo in his guide to the Southern Fells

I’ve not been able to find out when the National Trust started using those signs but the Wainwright Guide to the Southern fells was first published in 1960 so we can assume a sign like that has been on Black Fell for over 50 years. Probably more.

And how wonderful in an age when branding changes every five minutes, to look at a drawing done sometime in the late 1950s, and find it instantly recognisable and almost unchanged today.

Of course it should be said that in 2009 the National Trust’s branding was changed and the new version of the oak leaf logo has started appearing all over the place. But one place I’ve yet to see any changes is on those instantly recognisable property signs. And I hope there never is.