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Norman Wilson Associates

Can you help us to tell the story of Norman Wilson and the NBC Corporate Identity?

Can you help us to tell the story of Norman Wilson and the NBC Corporate Identity?

In 1972, Sir Fred Wood was appointed chair of the National Bus Company, with a mandate to take a more commercial approach to the corporation’s management, with a business-oriented focus on halting the decline in NBC’s market share and financial performance in both coach and bus markets. Wood had been impressed by his experience of Greyhound Coaches during his time in the US, with its consistent ‘pan-continental’ branding. As part of his new approach to turning around NBC’s fortunes, he called for a root-and-branch rebranding of coach and bus operations.

Before even taking up his role as NBC Chair, late in 1971 Fred Wood approached Manchester-based designer Norman Wilson – who had worked with him at his family business, Croda – to develop a new corporate identity. It is Wilson’s NBC Corporate Identity Manual, which formalised the identity he developed over the course of 1971-72, that this project has been launched to reissue.

Norman Wilson, designer of the NBC Corporate Identity, applies his NATIONAL lettering to the very first ‘white coach’ at Eastern Coach Works (ECW), Lowestoft, April 1972. His ‘double-N’ arrow seems to be pointing in the wrong direction in this trial application of the new identity to Eastern Counties’ RE858: normally it would point in the direction of travel on either side of the vehicle. Behind Wilson, assisting with the application, is ECW’s Alan ‘Casey’ Crisp, described by Eastern Counties’ Stephen Milne as “the best coach painter I ever knew – the best at lining-out and an excellent sign-writer.” Casey spent his entire working life at ECW, retiring at 65, three years before the Coachworks closed in 1987.

But unlike the development of British Rail’s corporate identity, remarkably little is documented on Wilson, his business Norman Wilson Associates, their influences or the creative process.

Can you help us to fill the gap? Were you involved, or did you work with Norman Wilson, or know of Norman Wilson Associates’ work for NBC or elsewhere? If so, please do get in touch with us using our contact form.

You can read more about our research to date on designer Norman Wilson and his influences here.

Help us to tell the full story of the NBC Corporate Identity.

4 replies on “Norman Wilson Associates”

I have fond memories of Norman Wilson as a visiting and part-time lecturer at the department of Art and Design, Salford technical college. A warm and generous man and an inspirational tutor in the late 1960’s

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Thanks- that’s great to hear. I know how proud NW was of his teaching. Let me know if you’d be OK to be quoted in the book – happy to have a chat some time if that’s easiest.

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I do not think that Norman Wilson should be applauded in any way for the dreadful white livery for coaches which proved to be totally impractical.
Also the Red or Green applied to service buses was bland and most Bus Co engineers complained and tried to modify the so called corporate livery which destroyed local identity and good will built up over many years by the BET and BTC companies. Great liveries such as City of Oxford ,Devon General and East Yorkshire were lost in favour of plain Red or Green and eventually the Companies ditched the NBC corporate livery as soon as they could. Norman Wilson was certainly not Norman Wisdom in his choice of Bus and Coach liveries. RIP.

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The identity was certainly controversial particularly with local managers who feared losing local control. The rationale was (as you can read elsewhere in the blog) to give the industry a modern face to compete with rising car ownership; to develop a stronger sense of pride across the industry; and to raise the recognition and influence of NBC as a major (but hitherto invisible) public corporation. It was partly successful in these aims. The ‘white coach’ was of course so impractical that… it’s still in use today!

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