Waterstone’s Gets a New Look


Waterstone’s is one of the best known booksellers in the UK. People all over the nation recognize the simple iconic W with a classic font and serious serifs. In plain black and white, the logo design has always been appropriate for this business because it reminds us of the printing inside a book. The initial makes it easy to paste the logo on every stationary surface, while the name of the company is written below to ensure that the letter is associated with the full name of the business.

However, the familiar W is about to change. Waterstone’s booksellers recently introduced a new visual identity this week, one that will be displayed in a variety of forms throughout stores all over the country. The motif of a single black initial with the full company name below will remain, but this is the only part of the old logo design and brand to make the cut.

The W is now a wounded, simple affair made of thick, blocky lines. This is likely meant to be modern and friendlier, but it also ties into the parent company HMV, as it is similar to an upturned M from the logo. The name of the bookseller is written in a similar wounded font in friendly, lower case letters. This signals a move from an authoritative entity, such as we have seen from this and other booksellers in the past, to one that is more customer friendly.

So far, media and customers have had mixed reactions to the logo. The Register had a particularly scathing take on the logo that compared the W to sagging women’s breasts. While few people were crass enough to make this comparison, the reception has certainly not been overwhelmingly positive. The new choice might be more popular if the old one hadn’t been so well known and meaningful to customers and the community.

Two key feelings communicated by the old logo were simplicity and authority. Customers had the general idea that this was a straightforward business that was an expert in its field. While it is a well known chain, these brand aspects at least gave it the feeling of a hometown bookstore. With the new logo, Waterstone’s takes its place among other national corporations and leaves the homey feeling behind.

Waterstone’s has come into its own and moved into our millennium, but is this really good for the brand? Do readers want to buy books from a modern, friendly, national identity or from a somewhat austere expert? The bookseller is taking a chance in making assumption either way.

Regardless of how you personally feel about the new logo, you will be seeing it soon, both on the company’s website and on its many buildings throughout the UK. Will this logo design fit in with more traditional settings such as the company’s flagship store in London’s Piccadilly? Only time will tell if this rebrand is a step in the right direction or a giant catastrophe.