M&S Birth of a Brand - Buildings and Signage

Discussion and activity ideas

This page suggests ways in which old and new images can be used with different subjects, as prompts for classroom and homework activities.

KS3/4 Art & Design

  • Watch the video of the Tooting store in London, and try and work out by looking at the style of clothes worn when the film was made.
  • Look carefully at the detail of this building of 1935. How does the style of the columns help to make the building look more impressive? 
  • The columns in these buildings are inspired by Greek architecture. Look at the link below about Greek columns to find out more about different styles of columns. Why would architects in the 1930s design buildings that looked back to ancient Greece? Why might businesses who commissioned the buildings be happy for them to be designed in that style? Would the reasons be the same for both of them?
  • We use the word 'font' these days to describe what used to be known as 'typeface'. There are at least seven different fonts used in the signage of the buildings. See how many you can identify and name (or describe).
  • Why do you think the colour gold was used in M&S signs?
  • Colour is very important in branding. The earlier M&S signs were red and gold, then they were changed to green and gold. Can you think of reasons why M&S chose green and gold?

KS2/3 Enterprise

  • All these photos are of shop fronts, but they convey different messages about what lies behind. The transition M&S made from this Penny Bazaar to this imposing building is huge. What differences do you notice and why would M&S want to make these changes? 
  • Signage is very important for the branding and marketing of a shop. If it works well it can suggest the 'look and feel' of your business. Fashion in fonts plays a part in this. Imagine you are opening a shop. Decide what your shop will sell and what type of customer you want it to appeal to, then design a sign for it. You might find it helps to look at the font choices on your computer, or you could design one freehand. This resource about M&S biscuit tins demonstrates the effect different fonts have on the look and feel of a design.
  • Photograph some of your local shop fronts and decide if their signage suggests the look and feel of their business effectively.
  • Find out what the word Ltd stands for on business signs.

KS2/3 History

  • Some of these pictures were taken about 100 years ago - imagine you are a child in 1912 and you're visiting an M&S Penny Bazaar. Think about the things you won't see that would be in a shop today?

KS2/3 Literacy

  • Watch the video of the Tooting store in London, and pick out any words from the soundtrack or on the shop signage that are a bit old fashioned for today's customers.
  • Use a reporting or creative style to write a story about life in the 21st Century, explaining to children 100 years ago what is coming in the future. You can choose one of these sentences below to begin your story, or use your own:
    'You will never believe it but...
    a) ... we can write a letter to someone without paper and pens and send it without a stamp through space'.
    b) ...some things that are sold in shops arrive in machines that fly through the sky'.
    c) ... lots of grown ups don't use coin money anymore in shops, just cards'.


Signage - display information

Branding - a name, logo, or design intended to promote a product

Archive - collection of historical records

Architecture - the process of designing buildings

Font - the style of letters and numbers

Commission - to hire or appoint for a particular job

Download the M&S Birth of a Brand Advertising timeline.

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