John Lloyd may not be a star name but over the course of his 50 year career in graphic design he has created brand identities most CR blog readers will recognise – and many that are as fresh today as they were when they were originally created. Logos for BAA, The British Medical Association, John Lewis and Morphy Richards, to name but a few, feature in a freshly launched online archive of Lloyd’s work…
Above: John Lloyd designed this programme for a symphony concert at London College of Printing, 1967
Lloyd began his career as a graphic designer when he embarked on a graphic design course at the London College of Printing in 1965. Ten years later he set up a design studio and branding consultancy with his friend Jim Northover – Lloyd Northover – a company that now has offices in Barcelona, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore – as well as London.
Poster for a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night, designed by Lloyd Northover, 1987
Recently retired from the business, we caught up with Lloyd last week and asked him to select and tell us about five brand identities from his archive of work – and took the opportunity to quiz him about his career…
Creative Review: Your website, johnlloyd.uk.com is new, right?
John Lloyd: Yes, it went live this summer.
CR: You’ve recently retired – why post this work up now?
JL: Throughout my career, my focus has been on achieving results for clients. Design effectiveness and the proven benefits of design have always been more important to me than seeking creative plaudits from peers. This approach has resulted in Lloyd Northover winning many awards for design effectiveness, including the Grand Prix in the first ever Design Effectiveness Awards in 1989. That’s not to say that our work hasn’t been acknowledged for its creativity; we have, for example, won an International Gold Award from the New York Art Directors Club.
Lloyd Northover won a Gold Award for Packaging at the New York Art Director’s Club in 1989 for its Asda own-brand packaging designs
But, over the years, I have kept a relatively low personal profile. The full range of what Jim Northover and I did together, and the quality of our work, was never promoted by us and, therefore, never fully appreciated by the profession. Much of my early work, too, has not been widely exposed. This stuff is easily lost and forgotten and by publishing the archive I wanted to ensure that the work survived. Furhermore, after fifty years in the business, and as an examiner and visiting educator at design schools, it occurred to me that the archive, which spans the decades from 1960, when corporate design really took-off in the UK, and which includes some ground-breaking and influential projects, should be preserved as an educational resource, if nothing else. So, the website is conceived as a contribution towards the online preservation and curation of graphic design history.
Also, through my career, I have been involved with design education and I have seen the art and design schools become transformed into universities. As a consequence of the courses becoming more academic in order to satisfy the requirements of classic university assessment criteria, the teaching of basic design skills is often overlooked. I see graduates with high degree classifications who are unemployable as designers in a creative practice. In design schools, you hear a lot of talk about ‘graphic authorship’ and students ‘finding their own voice’. If you want to use graphic design as a fine art medium, that’s fine, but I have always believed that a graphic designer working in the real world should express his client’s personality and messages, not his own. A corporate designer is a hired gun. I am not against designers being given an academic appreciation of their subject. But, design is a vocation and students should be equipped to practise design when they graduate. So, the archive aims to tell it how it is – to show that corporate design is about client-expression, not self-expression.
Lloyd Northover created the identification and wayfinding system for use at Britain’s major rail stations. The system included a new family of pictograms, a custom-designed typeface and new formats for each type of sign
CR: When you left college, you were obviously already good friends with Jim Northover. Where did you cut your teeth / what or who provided your first big break? And what was the commission, brief or client that gave you and Jim the opportunity to set up shop together?
JL: Jim and I first started to work together at the LCP in 1965; some of the work in the archive was designed in collaboration during those art school years. We graduated in 1968 and went to work with different design companies: I joined Allied International Designers and Jim worked with Michael Peters, Terence Conran and others. By doing this, we gained a huge amount of experience working on significant projects at home and overseas. It wasn’t until 1975 that we set up Lloyd Northover. We didn’t really have a ‘big break’ that enabled us to establish the business; we started modestly – just the two of us, and grew the practice organically. We kept our costs low – we didn’t pay ourselves a salary for the first year or two. We were able to do that because, as well as starting Lloyd Northover in 1975, we both got married in that year and our wives, who worked for others, were able to support us until the business got off the ground.
D&AD’s famous yellow pencil was deconstructed and rearranged to create a series of abstract images for use on the 1984 D&AD Annual cover and section dividers
Logo for National Savings and Investments
Lloyd Northover refreshed the logo and created fresh packaging for Morphy Richards back in 1985
CR: You’ve done dozens of great logos over the years. How did you get into doing logo design – who was your first client logo-wise?
JL: At Allied International Designers, I specialised in corporate identity and created identities for all kind of organisations including, in The Netherlands, ABN Bank, Meneba and Euromast and, in the UK, Nicholas International. So, logo design was very much part of what I did. In the early years at Lloyd Northover, because we were a small consultancy, we started by doing mainly print and small identities but our ambition was always to move into corporate identity for major organisations. One of our earliest clients was the English Tourist Board for whom we did a lot of branding work for promotional and marketing campaigns. Our first really substantial corporate identity project came in 1986 for BAA (British Airports Authority). Thereafter, the emphasis of Lloyd Northover’s work shifted from print design to the design and implementation of substantial corporate identity programmes. In addition to BAA, key identity projects from the 1980s include Courtaulds and the John Lewis Partnership.
As you may have gathered from the Archive, I am very pro-logo. It has become fashionable to knock the logo and to claim that corporate branding is about everything else – customer service, product performance, viral marketing, consumer communities and so on. But, there is no denying that the logo plays a central and, in my view, invaluable role in corporate branding. This is explored in the article, The art of corporate design, in the Reflections section of my website.
CR: Could you select five logos / identities that you’re most proud of creating?
BAA (British Airports Authority)
JL: This device is the key visual component in a corporate identity system that was designed to link all Britain’s major airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Southampton. The symbol consists of three green triangles that clearly suggest airport-related activities. It was designed in 1986 and is still in use today and, because the form is so simple and pure, I think it is a good example of lasting and timeless design – something I have always tried to achieve.
John Lewis Partnership
JL: This identification system has made John Lewis one of the most instantly recognizable UK department store brands. The core element – the diagonal motif – is not simply a repeated stripe. It is a subtly constructed unit that can be used singly or in multiple units to create a branding device for any context and any length required. I think this is a good example of flexible branding; the visual identity system is variable and versatile and is not constrained by being reliant on a logotype with a fixed single form.
JL: This project won the Grand Prix in the first ever Design Effectiveness Awards in 1989. The soft curves and hard lines in the Courtaulds ‘C-Mark’ reflect the corresponding qualities of the company’s products – textiles, fibres and advanced materials. The project broke new ground – for the thoroughness of the worldwide programme of research and employee involvement, and for the creative solution. I particularly like the unexpected asymmetrical and wayward symbol.
JL: This identity was designed in 1968 at Allied International Designers. Meneba is a Dutch milling company and producer of grain-derived products. The symbol, which encapsulates stooks of corn against the sun, is still in use today – a further example of how simple and reductive graphic design can last.
JL: This is an identity for a chain of supermarkets in Belgium. The Priba logo frames an ever-changing array of images, colours and patterns to reflect the diversity of products and services and is another example of flexible branding. I think the logo still looks as fresh today as it did when it was designed at Allied International Designers in 1973 in collaboration with Geoff Gibbons.
CR: Lloyd Northover is now an international company with offices around the world… Can you give us a little overview of what’s going on in LN at the moment? Some projects the company is working on at the moment?
JL: Today, Lloyd Northover has offices in London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai; all are thriving and Dubai is still going strong, despite a challenging local market. Our first major project in Asia was a huge corporate identity and design management programme for the Hong Kong Airport Express involving train liveries and interiors, signage, uniforms and passenger information. We set up the Hong Kong office to service that project and that office, together with the Singapore office, has gone on to become one of the foremost design consultancies in the region working in the transportation sector. Current projects in London include continuing implementation, design management, and communications for NS&I (National Savings& Investments); corporate branding for Transcom, London Southbank University, University of Bedfordshire, Grayling (the global PR group); and design management and website design for the Design Council.
CR: If you had to pick just one project you’ve worked on to date that you’re most proud of – what would it be and why?
JL: I think I’d probably pick the BAA symbol – for its utter simplicity and longevity.
To see more of John Lloyd’s work, visit his archive at johnlloyd.uk.com
To find out more about Lloyd Northover, visit lloydnorthover.com