We at Archer Hampson watched keenly on as Formula 1 unveiled its new identity to a set of seemingly unimpressed fans and racing drivers recently.

As any good creative agency should, we like to keep track of what’s happening in our industry – especially if it’s a momentous rebrand of a beloved property. Formula 1 is a massive product; and one with a recognisable and well-worn brand identity. Indeed, F1’s now-defunct logo had been around since 1994.

F1 logo: 1994 – 2017 (left) F1 logo: 2017 – (right)

As we settled down at our desks this Monday morning, the studio was a live with chatter about F1’s re-brand. That was particularly curious, given that no-one really gives a **** about the sport itself.

Why, then, were we bothered? Well, as it turns out a few of us had noticed some comments on the new ID that hit particularly close to home.

“I think the one that we already had was an iconic logo,” said Hamilton.

“Just imagine Ferrari changing their logo, or Mercedes changing their logo.

“I don’t think the new one is as iconic but maybe it will grow on us.”

Lewis Hamilton, reacting to F1’s new identity

Familiar feelings

Lewis Hamilton’s reaction seems ripped straight from the playbook of confused conservatism that we sometimes encounter when we pitch our more ambitious rebrand ideas.

Other than the fact that both Ferarri and Mercedes have evolved their logo over time (in Mercedes’ case, the change is fairly drastic), Lewis’ statement contradicts the obvious need to modernise the look and appeal of his sport.

Brand identities cannot stand still, they’ve never been able to; and they’re certainly not able to in our modern context. Logos and typefaces need to evolve in order for customers to understand the ethos of a brand in new (likely digital) contexts, whilst some brands need to refresh aspects of their visual identity to just stand still.

Evolution not revolution

‘Evolution not revolution’ is a stereotypical rationale that could describe some of our brand refreshes, as well as the rebranding efforts of big national agencies. Yet, I feel like that concept is flawed.

Even the tiniest change of branding detail is revolutionary to me. There is no such thing as ‘evolution’, when you really consider the affects of altering a brand and its assets.

The BBC’s Reith typeface.

The BBC and Twitter recently made a change to some of their typefaces, which garnered the inevitable ‘mixed reaction’ one expects after such efforts. It’s unclear as to whether Lewis Hamilton felt aggrieved at the changes, but I have asked him for comment.

I took particular interest in the BBC’s typeface refresh, as it was a long overdue ‘iteration’ that could be considered as a bit of an epochal moment for the Beeb.

The existing fonts that the BBC uses were developed last century and work well in print – but they’re not always clear enough when they appear in small, digital, spaces, and we’re all reading and watching far more on screens and mobiles these days.

So the new font – which we’ll gradually roll out, starting with sport today – will be easier to read and clearer, especially on small devices.

Colin Burns, Chief Design Officer

What Colin Burns describes above, to me, is a revolution. The advent of BBC Reith exists in the same universe as the refresh of F1’s logo. Both had a mixed reaction (*yawn*), but both were absolutely necessary moves.

A Mixed Conclusion

“Perhaps one of the problems that [F1] inherited is that they had a logo but they didn’t really have an identity.”

Richard Turley, Wieden + Kennedy

The reason F1 didn’t have an identity is because it has, as a brand, remained safely stuck in the mud. Like many brands do.

As far as I’m concerned, as creatives, its our job to fight that safeness. We need to hunt down ‘mixed reactions’ and relish the work that creates that sort of feeling.