My Dad Designed The Morrisons Logo

He got paid nothing other than his usual salary but his iconic M makes me smile every time I see it. Well it did, until they changed it slightly and won loads of awards for the new designer...
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He got paid nothing other than his usual salary but his iconic M makes me smile every time I see it. Well it did, until they changed it slightly and won loads of awards for the new designer...

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Logos are powerful things – be it a crocodile, a big tick or a half eaten apple – they are instantly recognisable and like crucifixes or swastikas can instantly identify the wearer’s allegiance to a particular belief, cause or brand.  Whilst many people proudly wear their logos big and brash I’m from an age when labels were subtle, discreet and often hidden. (I still find it easy to put my underpants on inside out).  A friend of mine despised fashion branding so much he’d take a razor blade to his clothes and cut off anything that made him “a walking billboard”. There is however one logo I never tire of seeing, one that I’ll always point out to my kids with some pride.  I have more reasons than most to like it, because my dad designed it.

In 1961 Ken Morrison had just opened his first supermarket in a disused cinema in Bradford. He decided that this big step needed some suitable promotion and so he visited the offices of his local newspaper the Telegraph and Argus where my father was in the middle of a short term trial as a commercial artist.  If you’ve seen Mad Men you’d expect this to be the start of a fairly long process - wining and dining the client, late nights at the office with teams of hip young cats chewing pencils and smoking their faces off, more boozy meetings and then suited and sober for slick pitches with sharp suited, silver tongued copy writers…but this was closer to Manningham than Manhattan.

Thankfully my Dad can laugh about the £450 million Morrisons spent on rebranding when they changed his logo in 2007.

After ten minutes with a sheet of Letraset, a cup of tea and a pipe my dad had designed an iconic logo that would last over 40 years , becoming familiar across much of the UK as the badge of a well-loved brand. Ken Morrison didn’t pay anything extra for the logo – it was included as part of a half page ad he’d bought to announce the opening – and dad just got his regular weekly wage of £15 and never saw him again. Since knighted and now retired, Sir Ken is one of Yorkshire’s richest men and one of its most quotable characters. When asked the secret of running a good supermarket, he replied with typical northern bluntness: "It's just taking money off people. And giving them something in return."

Great footballers from the pre-Sky days often bemoan the fact that they missed out on the riches of the modern game, how they got paid two shillings and sixpence for winning the FA Cup etc, but thankfully my Dad can laugh about the £450 million Morrisons spent on rebranding when they changed his logo in 2007. The reason given for the change was that Morrisons needed to attract a wider national customer base, to capitalise on its expanded geographical spread following the acquisition of Safeway. In other words they needed to make it softer for their southern customers.

Global design giant Landor Associates tweaked his original font  (Egyptian) , making it thinner. The contrast was lightened by changing the type colour from black to green and then using a different shade of yellow for the oval background.  Other than that the concept was still pretty much the same yet the revamp is credited with reversing the slump in trade the supermarket was facing.  Landor won a Gramia award and a gold at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards for its work on the account and Morrisons became the fastest-growing supermarket chain in Britain.

My dad isn’t bitter. He still does his weekly shop there.

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