This one has been coming down the tracks as reliably as a Japanese bullet train. Since taking on basically every other form of civil society logo — even think tanks came before this — I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach charities, because I find myself reluctant to punish them too hard for their design decisions.
This is on some level quite irrational — there are plenty of bad charities, including some pretty big ones, and plenty of charities that are basically just tax dodging schemes for rich people whose societal contribution is far less worthy than, say, a decent local authority.
But it’s equally worth remembering that lots of the charities I’m about to tear into do brilliant work and effective and innovative campaigning, and that if you feel angry at me for yelling about their bad graphic design, you should turn that energy towards donating to them to buy some better logos instead. Good design can be a force multiplier on good campaigning — it buys more eyeballs, more donations, more membership, and ultimately more credibility when carrying out the activities the charity exists to pursue. It shouldn’t come at the expense of core functions, but in times where cash is not critically short, it can help expand an organisation beyond keeping the lights on.
Partly to minimise this effect, I haven’t chosen to rank all the tens of thousands of charities in the UK, which would be patently peculiar — instead I’ve managed to find the 100 highest income charities as of 2017*. This means two things: they’re big enough to have access to design talent in-house, or to bring in freelancers, so if their logo is bad that’s their own fault; and that they’re big and ugly enough that they won’t get too mad at being critiqued. I’ve also wedged in a few big names that curiously don’t appear on that list, which ruins the neatness of a top 100 but also means I don’t get letters.
Charities present an interesting challenge because unlike universities, councils, and think tanks, their purpose and target audience vary much more widely. That means that the criteria for what makes something good is much more related to suitability for purpose — what might be appropriate for the Royal Society won’t be appropriate for Dogs Trust.
The method of ranking was the same as always — all 103 logos were compared side by side in a very large round robin tournament, with the results ordered by the number of wins each one clocked up.
Thanks to the person who submitted this idea and the excuse to spend another couple of evenings working through Google Images!
If you have thoughts or would like to talk to me about graphic design or the other things I do, you can as always get in touch with me via email or on Twitter. I do work for charities as part of my day job and am always happy to chat design and logos!
*Yes the data is quite out of date, but it’s surprisingly hard to find more recent data online without sifting through a massive data set or paying for it — and I’ll remind you I’m doing these for free. Some of the charities listed have changed their names or branding in the meantime and I’ve tried my best to reflect that.
Another small note of disclosure: Although I haven’t worked for the charity sector as closely as I have politics or think tanks, I have done some work for IRC UK via an agency, so if you think I’ve given them an unduly high score, you can pretend that’s why. Good luck with the ensuing conspiracy podcast. On with the show!
103. Methodist Schools
Ah, we start as we mean to go on, with religious charities not coming out well from this list — and not from a deliberate grinding of any axes on my part! In this case, what places Methodist Schools dead last is the boring font, uninspired imagery, and the Lovecraftian image the bare tree creates of a many-tentacled eldritch creature practicing its juggling act.
102. Archbishops’ Council
I recognise that the Church’s institutions aren’t exactly charities in the sense we’d normally understand them, but I’m not being paid enough to filter this list, so instead have the following observation of what I interpret from this logo: Two Gundams in pope hats are your parents, and they’re severely disappointed in you as you stagger home from a house party at 4am.
101. Richmond Fellowship Scotland
A few things about this social care and support provider’s logo give me the ick — the system font, the mismatch between the tone of the serious serif text and the clean lines of the house device, the line crossover of the chimney (I can’t tell if it’s deliberate or not). Individual elements of this could go places — there’s a kind of modernist direction in the red circle and the line house — but if they did, it would be by accident.
One of those logos which falls foul of what we dubbed the Ekklesia rule: You can try harder and be better! This was clearly knocked together in five minutes out of system fonts and while there’s nothing strictly offensive about it, come on, keep me awake.
99. Grace Trust
A bit hard to find what these guys actually do, but they’re another Christian one established in the sixties. It’s not as if their logo (which I only count as worth including here because of the minor design flair of the italicised “the”) gives me much to go on.
98. MSI Reproductive Choices
A very large reproductive health charity you may know better as Marie Stopes International, but they renamed themselves in 2020 after someone pointed out that Stopes, pioneer though she was in women’s sexual and reproductive health, was a bit creepily keen on eugenics. The early 20th century could be a complicated time.
Anyway, while there’s not much you can do with the more explicit imagery around MSI’s work, the unpleasant colour scheme and the dull fonts, together with the fairly amateurish illustration — which reminds me of a windows and doors contractor’s van, and to me brings to mind protests outside abortion clinics — leaves me wishing they would Marie Stop-using it.
The actual theory behind this logo is sound enough, but two factors make it sit down here at the bottom of the list. First is the cosmically terrible colour combination of bogeys and red wine, which doesn’t so much clash as fight a pitched tank battle against itself, and the second is the lack of additional tracking in the middle of the name, which nullifies the clever device of the “talking about me” imagery and pulls the old “I’m not touching you” bullying technique on the speech bubble. It makes my teeth itch.
96. Church Commissioners for England
The sort of logo you expect to see on the uniforms of men who come to take you away in the dead of night in an alternative fundamentalist Britain from an Alan Moore comic. Apparently formed in a merger from Queen Anne’s Bounty, a sort of investment scheme to provide income support for low-paid clergy, and I’d guess if it was more successful it could have paid for a better logo.
95. Methodist Homes — MHA
Apparently the largest charity care provider in the UK, which is a sentence with enough qualification to at least take the shine off its impressive sounding surface layer. The colour scheme on this one is superior to Mencap’s despite some similarity (the more contrasting blue-green helps) but the pictogram person being annihilated by some kind of long-range directed-energy beam doesn’t really suggest high quality care. I can definitely sense the work of lots of exhausting focus groups behind the phrase “Live later life well”.
94. Elim Pentecostal Churches
It’s a palm tree, with a cross hidden in the fronds, cute. But it’s less Desert Island Discs and more a fairly evangelical (according to their Wikipedia page) religious denomination which isn’t very obviously brought across by this branding. I’d have guessed some sort of leisure centre chain. Of course that’s fine if you’re using it on signage outside of a church, but there’s such a thing as being too subtle.
93. United Learning
I know this is meant to be a person growing like a tree, but it really does look like a wizard preparing to cast some kind of shield around an RPG party. Compressed sans serif font and hand drawn squiggle sketch imagery is sooo mid-2000s, too.
92. International Medical Corps
Fucking hell, talk about intense. Do not fuck with the International Medical Corps, they’ve requisitioned one of the tripods from War of the Worlds. This is hilarious, but maybe because they’ve radically missed the tone of compassionate internationalism in favour of a comic book logo for a series about heavily-armed battle-GPs.
“You’ll have to call back at 8am tomorrow to try and get an appointment” they cry while charging at a horde firing machine guns from both hands.
Ahem. Also the staff and planet device is too complex to make it memorable. Rethink.
91. Turning Point
There’s no easy way to say “your logo’s key device looks like a butt plug” is there? Still, at least they’re not the same Turning Point as those right-wing grifters led by Charlie Kirk. That’s going for them.
90. Woodard Schools
There’s a real thing in this list of trying to make Christian school trusts look as minimally Christian as possible, up to this case of the cross looking like a clover and only the word “faith” in the very shoehorned in slogan leaving their intentions clear.
I’m left wondering what the point is. Sure, you want to be able to attract the less- or non-religious parents, but if they’re bothered by the Christian aspect of the school, that is eventually going to come out — and it might be better to be upfront about it.
Sadly, their parent organisation, the Woodard Corporation, is no longer known by its previous name, The Society of St Nicolas, which would have provided many jolly and bearded examples of branding to lift from.
89. Education Development Trust
Annoys me primarily because they’ve constructed the E device in such a way as it resembles the Greek sigma, which is pronounced like an S. This is our first slab serif of the list, which is probably why it doesn’t come lower, since I’m a known sucker for them.
88. Unicef UK
Unicef’s branding, while not lighting the world on fire (which in any case wouldn’t be good for children) is sort of fine, if a bit complicated, and could even be nice if deployed well. Unfortunately no extra points are earned for taking an existing brand and whacking a country name onto it.
87. Alzheimer’s Society
Owing to our family history we have quite the history with the Alzheimer’s Society, and I will confess the forget-me-not imagery is clever and impactful (and makes a good pin badge). Why it places so low is I think that it’s not an easily adaptable logo — layering colour onto colour restricts what you can do with a monocolour version, and the quite nice illustration of the flower is fairly soft, so I have concerns about how it would translate to vector use. Anyway, back to the gags.
86. Age UK
This one is largely a victim of my personal prejudices, but oh lord does it go for the full bingo card. The loopy, limp lettering, the excess of colours, the slightly awkwardly draw perspective on the Mobius strip. I don’t have a funny insight here, it’s just ug-lee.
85. Eton College
Not minded to give literally the most privileged school in Britain any kind of leeway here. It’s trying to pretend it’s like a university — and of course, in fairness, you couldn’t really rebrand it without odious billionaires kicking up a fuss that their prestige school had been ruined — and it once again reminds me that charitable status for private schools is bunk and if we must have them (we mustn’t) then they can at least have the good grace to not produce really terrible Prime Ministers all the time.
84. Alternative Futures
Trying to identify the font here and it looks like some version of Neo Tech, the sister font of Neo Sans, the really terrible late-Brown, early-Miliband era Labour Party font. That’s distracted me from the real issue here, which is the bolted on polygonal butterfly which screams “we had no confidence in this design and felt we needed to throw the kitchen sink at it” — the killer of so many logos. Similarly the wedged together “afg” secondary butterfly just demonstrates what happens when you panic and think you need yet another visual element.
83. United Response
A charity that supports people with learning difficulties and autism, apparently — all very admirable, but does use a primary font that looks, well, squishy. As though it were made of gelatine. Speaking of which, the colourful tick makes me really want some of those gummy Skittles they have over in America. Can you tell we’re reaching the mediocre bit of the list?
In case you’ve wondered about the weird bird in the RSPB logo (who hasn’t?) it’s an Avocet, apparently a success case for British conservation after its successful return and increase in population numbers in the mid-20th century, hence why it gets to represent the charity. That bit’s all well and good, and its use as negative space in the blue square (representing either sky or water because that’s where birds live innit) is nice.
Many marks are lost, however, for the limp, skinny lower-case font (which I think is Arial) and the lack of a proper supporting colour. Not a tragedy, but hasn’t yet earned its wings. BIRD PUN.
81. Royal Horticultural Society
Ahahaha! Inspiring them to grow! Which could mean personal growth or growth like what plants do! D’ya get it? We put the tree in a negative space shield because we want to look heritage-y! We’ve used a slightly wobbly font to imply we’re not too rigid and associated with nature!
That dull green is inspiring me to do nothing short of sleep.
It’s fun to work for the PSDA! I assume. They’re a vet charity that provides low-cost or free vet care for those who can’t afford it, which is one of those causes you can’t really argue against without sounding like a contrarian dickhead.
Suffers in my view from the annoying typeface (Lato I think) with those anemic rounded off corners which detract from the strong statement of an all-caps, heavily bolded slogan.
The pawshake imagery is a nice idea but oddly executed — check out the wonky fingers on the human hand, and the paw by contrast looks too human (it’s the individual fingers) — and in general I’d suggest there’s a little too much going on.
79. Community Integrated Care
A nice enough colour combination (redolent of a small central Asian nation recognised by about three other countries). A bit of a missed opportunity on the imagery though — could easily be a stack of books but I’m not sure what that would have to do with care — unless the uneven stacking is suggestive of the concept of mutual support?
78. Plan International UK
Another one for the curvy corners font sin bin. If you’re going to use a curvy font, use a soft and cuddly one like Macmillan, even a handwriting font. If you’re going to make a BIG, BOLD, STATEMENT then embrace the geometry. You can’t be shouty and cuddly at the same time, and the hand drawn symbol and ragged background suggest it badly wants to be the latter, and needs to lean into it harder.
77. Lloyd’s Register Foundation
Loud snoring sounds
What? Oh yeah, that. Certainly is a logo.
Couldn’t quite work out whether this was tear-fund like what comes out of your eyes, or tear-fund like what paper does if you pull on it. They were apparently involved in the Make Poverty History campaign in about 2005 (great bit of charity branding if ever I saw one) but this did not extend to making their poor gummi-font logo history. Another Christian charity for the pile.
75. Marie Curie
Another victim of the insidious Lato plague. The sooner that font is driven off the Google Fonts library the better in my view. On behalf of graphic designers — some of whom will probably receive Marie Curie’s care in a hospice, just statistically speaking — please change it. And that unnecessary line device should go, too. Colour combination and the daffodil are nice, and have come to be associated with Marie Curie and with cancer despite not being intrinsically related, so you can keep those.
Took me a while to spot the negative-space S in this one which is testament to how good a designer I am. Solid concept, but would work better in my view with a smaller, more spaced out but bold and capitalised set of lettering, and a less stark contrasting colour combination — possibly the dark purple with a lighter purple, or maybe a light blue. It’s all a bit intense on the eyes at the moment.
73. Shaw Trust
Here’s a little tip for graphic designers. If you’re doing a word-only mark, you can cut little notches into the shapes to give an illusion of depth and dynamism which can enhance the user’s sense that you’ve spent time and care on it.
Here’s a second little tip: I said enhance, not create from whole cloth. You do have to do something a bit interesting for it to build on.
72. Nursing and Midwifery Council
The NMC mark, standing alone, with the N and M sharing a conjoining leg, would be higher up this list than it is. Conscious though I am of the need to spell it out, I’m not keen on the layout, not on the skinny not-quite-angular, not-quite-curvy lettering of the supportive font.
71. Orders of St John Care Trust
The St John cross is a good bit of imagery to base yourself around, and the font choice is authoritative and heritage-y, although I do question the slightly weird layout hierarchy. I’m sure there’s a good reason there are two badges (two orders, plural, I guess) but being scattered like coasters on a table doesn’t seem very careful.
70. Voluntary Service Overseas
Yeah, it’s alright. With a very broad remit from the name, managing to work in the global idea through the larger circle is quite well done. Eyeing that rounded off V with suspicion, though. Looks like Lato to me.
69. World Vision UK
I distinctly remember doing some work for them once, or at least being allowed onto their Figma board. But I also have no memory whatsoever of what it was, and my bank statements show no record of being paid by them. Weird.
Anyway, one of the more famous charities on this list, mostly for their quite long and very straight-laced TV ads, which always struck me as curiously ineffective for the magnitude of the horrors they portrayed. Perhaps it was the shonky production values, and it’s a disquieting thought to think that this probably impacted their donations and giving. Comms matters!
Logo-wise, it’s… inoffensive. The bounding box containing the Christian star is a nice nod without leaning too hard on it, and the interesting weighting on the font makes it better than anything using Lato, but I don’t think it would win any prizes.
68. Girls’ Day School Trust
This is the sort of thing Eton could aspire to — looks a bit prestige due to the subtly serifs on the main lettering, looks modern due to the simplicity and the sans serif supporting font. Not that it’s world-changing — could easily be a mid-market fashion brand, but solidly low-mid-table.
67. St Andrew’s Healthcare
There’s lots of bits of this I individually like — the shading on the cross is a nice use of high contrast, the incorporation of the dot into the T is well executed, the neat slice of an apostrophe I approve of, and the colours are good. All combined though, there’s something a bit… much about it. A bit busy. Maybe it’s the presence of a third colour or too much fine detailing on the cross. Would work better as a shoulder patch than as an institutional logo.
66. St. John Ambulance
Lato strikes again. Christ that font gets around once you notice it. Why do people like it so much? Mainly gets away with it though, due to the strong St John mark — although as mentioned in previous lists, pre-rendered 3D looks can get in the bin.
65. Childrens Investment Fund Foundation
Unlike the NMC, this shows how to do the sideways initialism device a little better. Placing it in a box limits its size and stops it blowing out the contrast between the elements, and keeping the font consistent allows it to be a coherent whole. Unfortunately despite a nice choice of red, it’s still rather boring, which is possibly an inevitably outcome of being called what it is.
Some tiny but nice touches — the little diamonds above the Is remind me of the ones above the TFL font — make up for what is an overly complex and badly colour-matched primary mark — the ideal of a wheel that lets people flower (reach their full potential) is there, but it needs fewer petals to not look like a jet turbine, unless Motability are going to start buying people planes, too.
63. Fusion Lifestyle
A leisure brand, and I think the only one on this list — though that’s not entirely clear from this logo, which goes for a fairly abstract bit of imagery that is nonetheless to be commended for its bold colours.
62. General Medical Council
Technically speaking a charity, but since its say-so is required to practice as a British doctor, and it can confer other privileges and sanctions under the law, it’s functionally tied to the state.
While I wouldn’t claim its logo was exciting, it’s sort of forgivable. If there’s any institution you don’t want to be accused of fucking about with concepts of being fun and dynamic, it’s the body responsible for making sure your doctor doesn’t misplace their half-eaten Kit Kat inside your spleen during an operation.
61. British Museum
It’s extremely straight-laced, but also it’s the British Museum, so it could hardly be otherwise. If you are going to be constrained by the institutional nature of your organisation, you could do worse than this — but would a splash of colour or some supporting visual element (a column?) kill them?
60. Islamic Relief Worldwide
The core mark here is not a bad one, and quite iconic if you’re the sort of person who does a lot of visits to recycling bins in car parks (flashbacks to getting rid of all my clothes before I left the country).
However, I think it’s lacking some confidence, hence the superfluous repetition of the name in a plainer font in a way that subtracts from an ultimately quite good piece of design.
59. Prince’s Trust
Thank goodness it wasn’t that prince we were encouraged to trust, eh? The hatched effect creates a nice illusion of depth, and although the font won’t set the world on fire, nor would we want it to. Solidly middle of the pack.
I’m someone whose brain feels like it’s tied up in knots quite a lot of the time, so the key imagery here appeals to me. Other bits of the execution leave things to be desired — they’ve managed to hand draw some lettering but still have it look like a handwriting font, which is as impressive as it is unfortunate. The blue is less calming and reassuring and instead veers into being dull. A big swing for a good brand, but it doesn’t quite connect.
57. Historical Royal Palaces
Won’t somebody think of the historic royal palaces? A curiously modernist take on logo design for what you’d imagine would be a fairly trad institution.
56. The London Clinic
It’s a private hospital, so I’m not exactly celebrating their commitment to good public works, but it is technically a charity which has treated a fairly august list of patients, including the fairly startling first bullet point on Wikipedia’s list which is that they removed Clement Attlee’s prostate in 1939.
The simplified staff mark matches the skinny font nicely, and it’s one of very few cases where a supporting line isn’t hideous (mainly because it’s in keeping with the other elements. There’s a tiny hint of Art Deco in there, I think.
55. Save the Children
Children in a circle, I know, I know, it’s serious. Not going to win any awards, but not going to require psychoanalysing the designer, either.
54. Great Ormond Street Hospital
GOSH, this is a mediocre logo. When you’re a children’s hospital you either go the full Roald Dahl and become a super-austere serif-heavy brand of stuffy victorian seriousness, or you use a cartoon of a poorly child. Whatever I think of the rather creepy staring eyes and the juxtaposition between the tear and the smile, full marks for picking a direction and bloody well sticking with it.
53. Royal Voluntary Service
Rings of obligation tying each other together. Simply imagery, but it works. Not wild about the colour combination — that green is a bit muddy — but at least they didn’t use bloody Lato.
Not actually a wildly exciting or innovative logo — and rare for an animal charity not to use the beasts in their branding — but so iconic it’s hard to overlook. Now I look, the squishing together of the letters is slightly irritating. Maybe I will knock it down a few places after all.
51. Christian Aid
Slab serifs! We’ve seen precious few so far. The tag is a nice nod to gift giving and as negative space uses go it’s among the more effective.
Curious choice to put the slogan above the main title, in a way that almost distracts me from the slightly weird decision to mix those very fine and fairly hefty serifs. It works, just about, even if the leaping gummy figures are a bit 1990s.
49. British Film Institute
Are these meant to be abstract versions of sprocket holes? Or am I overthinking it? Nice simple logo with good use of slab serifs.
The squared off font here wouldn’t be something I’d usually like, but the fact they don’t overburden it with supportive imagery, save for the subtle inversion of the first i into an exclamation mark for a sense of urgency bolstered by the tight packing of the lettering and the choice of bold red, means it goes a lot further than I’d expect.
47. Citizens Advice
Working for an MP you come to hear their name an awful lot, and given the circumstances in which people come to interact with Citizens Advice (benefits issues in my experience) it’s probably a good decision to use calming, rounded shapes and colours as a reassuring presence.
46. Nuffield Health
One of those brands I’ve seen everywhere but didn’t really appreciate what they were until I Googled them to write this. Basically a private healthcare provider which makes my inner social democrat suspicious, but we’re just here to discuss the logo, so — I quite like the casual backwards lean of the Es, and the diamond dot on the I. There.
45. Leonard Cheshire
I like the simplicity of it, even if the imagery is fairly abstract. As a charity providing support services for disabled people I read it as showing the independence of people of many different types and states of existence, via those abstract shapes, with no right angles in view.
I’m fascinated by what design process produced this mark, to the degree where I can overlook the annnoyingly rounded font (is it Lato again? I think it might be!)
It’s kind of like a totem pole in its use of cut out negative space to produce geometric shapes. I guess you can read that as channels for water to flow down, either for irrigation or for drinking. Nice work, if it does require a bit more fitting together with the text.
43. British Heart Foundation
Excellent work taking all my furniture off my hands when I moved, lads. I think you ended up making forty quid off it. I do have beef with the inconsistent line thickness on the central heart mark, nice concept though it is. Extra marks for what I think is a bit of custom font work in the organisation name, even if that coquettish little leg on the Ns is not to my taste.
42. Kew Gardens
Another one in the British Library straight-laced and serious vein, with extra points for obscuring the confusing and boring official bit of the name with the hierarchy relative to the thing everyone actually calls it.
41. Gatsby Charitable Foundation
David Sainsbury’s lot (he had to be doing something now he isn’t bankrolling Progress) and the hatched man is a unique bit of design, I’ll give it that. Rather unfortunate that it looks as though he’s disintegrating in the blinding light of a nuclear explosion.
40. Guide Dogs
They won’t win any prizes for their originality, but to be fair, they probably don’t need to. A little bonus point for the alignment of the text — the D is weighted to the centre of the G, where it touches the invisible baseline. This looks slightly offset when you notice it, but helps the text keep a feeling of balance. Nice.
39. Leverhulme Trust
A really curious case of a grant making organisation named after a dead historical figure (Lord Leverhulme) choosing to go very modernist in its logo approach — probably related to its main activity being in research grants, so they feel they need to look futurey. I’d guess that’s why the line is there too — to tell you you’ll be spending all your time with them filling in grant applications.
38. Sue Ryder
Sort of curious decision to use this slogan in their logo — and it would be better without it in my view. Those are all important functions, but they’re also quite complex words, and given that most users’ interaction with them will be via their charity shops, I wonder if they might not be better relegated to a sub-brand for those on the receiving end of the support. Of course, they could be already and I’ve just mis-googled while trying to find their logo.
Once more it comes back to that thing about having confidence in your brand — the more you’re explaining, the worse it looks, and I suspect an agency armed with focus groups is to blame.
I’m not getting at the meat of the logo here, which is that the nice soft signature and irregular background blob effectively communicate an air of friendly support, backed up by the soft blue.
37. Stewardship Services
Another Christian one — hence the cross I suppose — which seems curiously opaque in terms of what they actually do. I don’t think they have a Wikipedia page. Anyway, a good way to mix seriously (serif font) with dynamic (bright colour, nice modernist cross) let down a little bit by the meaningless and tacked on italic slogan.
Compressed font and purple-yellow contrast with a big popping lightbulb is a little bit reminiscent of a school textbook I would have used in about 2006, but it’s a decent example of itself with some nice smaller touches such as matching the lightbulb pop with the slicing off of the T to let it breathe. Maybe the “hft” sound is the logo breathing.
35. Royal Society
Nullius In Verba literally means something like “don’t take anyone’s word for it” which is a nice one for a scientific society to have, and I think (but can’t confirm) that’s why the shield is mostly blank. As fairly trad crests go, and we thankfully haven’t had nearly as many on this list as on the universities, it’s quite pleasant, avoiding being too overly complex.
34. Dogs Trust
God it must be the easiest job in the world being the brand manager for Dogs Trust. “Boss, we need to come up with a new ad. What imagery shall we use?”
“What about we go back to the old classics — show a dog looking cute and needing the help of giving humans?”
“That’s why you’re the boss, boss”.
Still, being easy doesn’t mean it’s bad. Look at his widdle face.
33. British Red Cross
No bonus points for using established imagery, but the Red Cross is so iconic and well-known that the baseline points value is already very high. Kind of interested in why the word spacing is so tight — was it literally just that the logo would get a bit long otherwise? Maybe try it on two decks with “British” on one line and “Red Cross” on the other.
This homelessness charity is pulling a similar trick to Macmillan, using custom lettering to look friendly and grassroots — the craft paper look is a bit harsher and a bit harder to read at a distance than the pen drawing look of Macmillan however, so it lands a little lower.
31. National Trust
A classic. Oak leaves are classically British, one of the first bits of nature everyone learns in school, and very associated with heritage-y things. Using a growing branch complete with acorns suggests it’s an ongoing process of growth in heritage and not just about defending the status quo.
Never ideal to have to explain what you’re about in a supporting slogan (this is laid out like a little info box) but it’s done fairly well here, and the double meaning of the equals sign (we’re about equality and here’s what our name means) is subtly clever. Also has a stiff-backed boldness which is how you ought to do that kind of all-caps title.
29. Consumers’ Association (Which)
I don’t think this is Lato, but it’s damn close to it. A shame, since the logo is highly recognisable and thank goodness for whoever decided to lead with their well-known consumer watchdog foot rather than their official name. Red and white is an old saw, but it’s a classic for a reason.
28. Royal Opera House
Highly trad royal crest (as you’d expect from the Opera) with a token nod towards modernism in the sans serif font (aided by all three words being five letters long, allowing a pleasing grid effect). I think they, their audience, and we all know that no matter how hard they try, opera is not going to be anything other than an elite institution any time soon, so only a nod is needed.
Readers of a certain age may remember the iconic NSPCC dot (which either derived from, or lent its name to a slogan along the lines of “cruelty to children must stop — full stop”). Anyway, it’s gone now, replaced by a minimalist word mark and a new slogan. Probably wise, since their remit extends beyond just preventing cruelty as Roald Dahl would have depicted it and more into safeguarding and recovery too. That’s not imagery that you want to depict too harshly, so the minimalism is a good choice.
26. National Autistic Society
Ah, my lads. Yes, the guy who ranks logos on the internet for a hobby is on the spectrum — surprise! The central imagery here — of a melange of different types of thinking and functioning coming together into an effective campaigning point — is nice, enough so that I can overlook how tricky this might be to use in certain colour contexts.
25. National Theatre
Okay, Swiss design based on Helvetica is super easy and unoriginal, but if you were given the job of branding a giant concrete slab of a theatre, I find it hard to think you’d do anything differently. There’s a reason the style endures — it’s bloody great.
24. Victoria and Albert Museum
There’s a pleasing symmetry to the V&A which makes up for the awkwardness of using an A in a wordmark (basically you generate empty space because it tapers inwards) by just chopping it off, a highly pragmatic solution of which the rather strange prince in question would probably have approved. It’s a nice modernish take on something very traditional. Points!
23. Royal Shakespeare Company
They say keep it simple, stupid, and the RSC clearly agree. There are lots of more traditionalist approaches they could have taken with 400-year-old source material, they haven’t, and they should be applauded for it.
22. Royal National Institute of Blind People
There’s a rather crass joke about the RNIB and logo design which I won’t make, but if you did it in your own head, well, they support people who have other forms of sight loss too, so I hope you feel bad.
Anyway, I think this is rather good for its purpose. It’s about clarity and simplicity and boldness, which is both pragmatically useful (you can identify it from shape and colour if your eyesight isn’t up to making out lettering) and brings across the organisation’s ideology for those who can read it.
Entirely spitballing here, but I wonder if using an initialism also offers opportunities if you’re writing in Braille — it would certainly save space.
The RNLI flag is a classic of course, but actually if you’re looking for aid in a hurry, then a large sign saying “lifeboats” is probably more useful than trying to spot the mark — particularly if you’re unfamiliar either because you’re young or a foreign visitor. Since the RNLI is not a formal emergency service, but the public treats and views it as one anyway, they need to be quite pragmatic and direct with their branding.
20. Wellcome Trust
Wellcome is welldone. Named after one of the forerunners of GlaxoSmithKline, the W is so prominent it loses some of its status as a letter and started to resemble its geometric shape, a zig-zagging but forward path towards the biomedical research outcomes they work on. Clever, huh.
19. Macmillan Cancer Support
A classic of fundraisers on Facebook, and the branding is a warm and lovely squishy hug in typeface form, which is exactly the intention, as is the warm friendly green. Hand drawn fonts can be a tricky beast when the audience knows that the design is reproduced and thus cannot be real, and I usually recommend sticking with literally writing it out and scanning it as the best approach for logo work — as you can see from the distinct Ms here, it pays off in authenticity.
18. IRC UK
The arrow contains an I, an R, and if you squint a bit, a C. The high contrast colour scheme makes it, from my experience, quite a joy to work with.
17. Amnesty International
Human rights can have a tendency towards the grim, and that’s there in the imagery of the candle restrained behind barbed wire, but the very bright, high contrast colour scheme stops it feeling too dour. A very successful brand for a reason — like the best logos on this list, it oozes confidence.
16. Salvation Army
They might have some questionable positions on a few things, but as charity logos go, this must be among the world’s more recognisable. It’s up here for its staying power as much as for anything else — unselfconsciously retro, but still simple enough to survive into the modern world.
15. Science Museum Group
I love a variable width font, and the strength here is how easily this approach can be applied to different sub-brands — check out the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester to see what I mean.
14. English Heritage
It’s an E! And an H! And it’s also a castle! Great use of simple geometry to bring out a lot of meaning. The serif font is a shame but we’ve got to let the trade have something, I suppose. Looked great flying on a flag above Pickering Castle when I was there last summer.
13. Action for Children
Happy little dancing star child! A nicely done handwritten font! Bold colours and soft curves! What’s not to like?
12. Comic Relief
Okay this one’s quite clever. Firstly they’ve associated it with the red of the Red Nose Day while not taking away from their other work through their best-known brand, but secondly the heavy, compressed all-caps sans serifs are a staple of comedy posters and promotional material, which gets to their purpose and origins without having to do anything overtly comical.
With a mark adopted in 1999 and its current iteration changing the font in 2013, the Oxfam logo is among the most recognisable on this list. Obviously the “ox” spelled out by the mark is clear, but I sort of read it as a top-down view of people linking arms or perhaps handing out aid. Either way, it’s an extremely effective and iconic logo, well deserving of its high ranking.
The WWF panda is a classic, and deserves credit for having stared down Vince MacMahon and avoided endless jokes comparing them to what is now WWE. Anything black and white is a prime candidate for negative space, and, well, you’re looking at a great example.
9. Change, Grow, Live
M.C. Escher makes a surprise appearance in this addiction charity’s logo, representing the constant onwards and upwards journey of recovery and improvement in a dynamic and inventive way using fair simple and straightforward shapes. Solid.
8. Cancer Research UK
A classic. Manages the tricky feat of involving lots of colours and complexity while not breaking its usefulness through overdesign. the ideas of 1) the variety of cancers, 2) the value of collective action to resolve cancer, 3) the cells involved in cancer and 4) the nickname “big C” to refer to cancer can all be found here, and that’s part of why it will definitely be one of the better known logos on this list.
7. Royal British Legion
The flat design invoked here manages to marry traditional and modern quite well, using simple geometry combined with elaborate serifs to suggest history and heritage while also being forward-looking. Nicely done.
6. We Are With You (formerly Addaction)
It’s simple, but a really nice way of invoking a connection of mutual support between people recovering from addiction. The bold blue is great, too.
They’ve rebranded! I definitely prefer the new one to the old one — it’s urgent, grassrootsy, and really effectively communicates their aims and purpose without bolting on additional design elements, and could work in a variety of deployments.
4. Natural History Museum
After everything I’ve said about Lato, and this comes in the top five — I sicken myself. It’s not the words that get me here but the fact that the big N looks like a set of snapping jaws. If you designed this, can you tell me if that’s what it’s meant to be? It might be that that’s genuinely a great bit of design, or that I was so fatigued making the list that I thought it was brilliant. The choice is up to you.
3. Tate Gallery
Half tone grids can be immensely fun to work with, and making this one must have been quite painstaking. Despite its indistinctness, it’s also extremely recognisable, and a cool nod to the spread out nature of the Tate across many different locations and galleries.
2. Church of Scotland
Probably the biggest surprise strong performer of the list — both the burning bush and the Saltire are very strong and recognisable pieces of imagery, and its proof of their deployment here that they don’t actually need any words to communicate effectively what’s going on. Compare to the rather drab and authoritarian Church of England logos early in this list, and see how much fun they’re having north of the border.
Not really a charity is it, but we’ll let that slide.
1. Canal and River Trust
I’ve had a weird fascination with this logo since I kept seeing it on W4MPJobs back in my UK politics days. A great modern font choice, exciting blue to relate back to the source material, and the brilliantly effective sunset-over-water image created by very simple cutting down of the geometry of an O leaves me pleased every time I spot it. Absolutely deserving of the top spot.