Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Archive.

This resource is part of an  M&S Birth of a Brand theme intended to provide a broad picture of the development of M&S marketing, using selected items from the M&S Company Archive's collection of images. The overall aim of the Birth of a Brand related resources is to show changes in marketing throughout the history of the Company, and how this links to social history and world events.

It features four photographs of shop fronts from 1912 to 1935, and looks behind the scenes to understand the importance of buildings and branding in creating a successful business.

This is suitable for both students and teachers, as it gives a brief overview that both groups could use (either as research or as a starting point for a lesson). The activity ideas could be used by students as homework/research questions or by teachers as a lesson idea.

An M&S 'Birth of a Brand' timeline is available to download from the Resources section.

Curriculum Links

  • KS3 Art & Design: History of art, craft, design and architecture.
  • KS4 Business: Marketing

Learning Objectives

  • Students will understand the importance of branding and style in creating a successful business
  • Art & Design students will learn to investigate different architectural styles and fonts
  • By looking at archive photos students will learn to compare and contrast life 100 years ago with today

Discussion and Activity Ideas

KS3 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 the 1935 building. 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. Find out about Greek columns (see Supporting Links) to find out more about the different styles. 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 M&S buildings. Compare the different fonts.  Why do you think each one was chosen?
  • 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?

KS4 Business

  • All the photos of shop fronts convey different messages about what lies behind. The transition M&S made from the Penny Bazaar to the imposing 1935 Carlisle 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 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 people 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