Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Archive.

This resource is part of a '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. A Birth of a Brand timeline  is also available to download.

Curriculum Links

  • KS2 Art & Design
  • KS2 Design & Technology
  • KS3 Citizenship  

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of environmental and sustainability issues
  • Understanding about the history and development of branding design over time
  • Developing observation, research and design skills

Below are suggestions in which old and new images can be used with different subjects, as prompts for classroom and homework activities.


Discussion and Activity Ideas

KS2/3 Design and Technology
  • In 1903 what materials would have been available to make carrier bags from? What materials are carrier bags made from today?
  • Examine the properties of the different materials that can be used to make carrier bags.
  • Collect three plastic carrier bags from different producers or shops – fill each of them with the same items e.g. bags of sugar, and see which breaks first or stretches the most.
  • Create a carrier bag design project. You will need to decide:
    • what the bag is for and what type of customer it is going to appeal to?
    • what will it need to hold, what size will it be, how strong does it need to be?
    • what will it be made of, how durable should it be, will it be recyclable?
    • who will make it and where, will the makers comply with 'Fairtrade principles'? (see Supporting Links in Resources)
    • what will it look like, what words and images are you going to use? 
    • how many will you need to produce and how much will that cost?  
KS2/3 Art & Design
  • Look carefully at the different design styles and fonts used in the M&S carrier bags. Find examples of fonts that were fashionable in 1900s, 1930s, 1950s and 1960s. Other M&S resources have examples of different font styles, Buildings and Signage and Biscuit Tins
  • What are the main differences between the designs from 1903 and 2010?  
  • Look at the pictures of the archive-inspired M&S 'bags for life'. Design your own archive-inspired bag using images from the M&S pages as inspiration. Create an exhibition of your designs in school - you could ask other classes to vote for their favourite.

KS2/3/4 Citizenship

  • In 2008 M&S introduced a charge for carrier bags. Customers were asked at the checkout if they wanted a 5p bag (most of this goes to charity). It was done to encourage people to use their own bags to conserve limited resources, promote sustainability, and cut down on waste and litter. In 2015 it became law in England for large shops to charge 5p per plastic bag. 

  • Organise a class debate about charging for carrier bags and record the 'pros and cons'.
    - Has this policy helped change peoples' behaviour in the way  it was hoped it would?
    - What, if any, has been the impact on the environment?
    - What about the economy and the charities receiving the tax money?
  • Create a campaign to encourage people in your school and community to conserve resources and recycle more. What would you need to do to get everyone involved and supporting the idea? Look at this resource about campaigns for inspirational ideas.


Recycle - use waste material to create new products
Sustainability - renewable, able to continue for an indefinite period without damaging the environment
Policy - a principle to help make decisions
Conserve - to prevent loss or waste
Campaign - to support or fight for something you believe in
Debate - to discuss from different points of view
Resources - materials or services that help people achieve their aims
Fonts - the style of letters and numbers
Fairtrade - an organisation that promotes fairness and sustainability about business

Download the M&S Birth of a Brand timeline.