The original National Trust oak leaf logo dates from 1936 and was designed by sculptor and designer Joseph Armitage. It was slightly more attenuated, in tune with its time, but already had a strong symbolic presence.
By 1982 it was thought to be in need of an update (a ‘brand refresh’ as we would call it today). The commission was given to David Gentleman as he had already designed a series of successful posters for the National Trust during the 1970s. They conveyed the organisation’s changing identity through their refreshingly modern, semi-abstract style.
For the new version of the logo David Gentleman went back to nature for inspiration, collecting oak leaves on Hampstead Heath. He then carved a number of designs in boxwood, ending up with one that was elegantly simple and yet still botanically feasible.
The subtle harmony of the design reinforces the symbolic messages around Britishness, heritage, nature and growth. Recent National Trust brand updates have only made the Gentleman design more prominent, and it now features in a rainbow of colours.
David Gentleman has just published his latest book of almost ukiyo-e-like drawings, entitled London, You’re Beautiful. And images of his Camden studio and his and his wife Sue’s Suffolk cottage (very ‘English wabi‘, both of them) feature in Ben Pentreath’s recent book English Decoration.