British Standard Colour

Welcome back to the Creative Awards blog where we showcase the very best in custom awards and bespoke trophies. Colour, in all its glorious forms, is the subject of today’s blog entry as we celebrate our colour matched awards with a history of the great British Colour Standard. 

Did you know that British Standard Colour is a colour system that was widely used across the British Commonwealth to standardise colour references?. The history of the BSC reflects the developments in the society of the time and can be seen as an extension of the social, political and economical growth of the country. BSC originally came out of the Engineering Standards Committee, founded in 1901, that was renamed as the British Engineering Standards Association in 1918. After receiving a Royal Charter in 1929, the organisation was again renamed to the British Standards Institution (BSI). Setting civil and mechanical engineering standards; the BSI's global influence was unique until the creation of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1947 reflecting the impact that Great Britain had through its empire and influence on the globe during the first half of the twentieth century. 

BS381C - The First Colour Standard 

BS381 Published in 1930, BS381 was the BSI's first colour standard. It did not duplicate the work of the British Colour Council, as it fulfilled a very different purpose to the BCC's work. In fact BS381 was not a co-ordinated range of colours at all but rather a collection of individually specified colours; used for camouflage, identification, signalling and coding systems; by the armed forces and other government departments, public bodies and industry.

In 1945 the BSI published a standard of just ten colours: BS381WD: 1945 Flat Colours for Wall Decoration. This was soon replaced by BS1572: 1949 Colours for Flat Finishes for Wall Decoration, which was expanded to 17 colours (black and white are not depicted). Although BS1572 largely duplicated the work of the then still existent British Colour Council; it was specifically designed for the Ministry of Works, rather than for the profession of interior design. This was, in turn, replaced by BS2660: 1955 Colours for Building and Decorative Paints.

A Post-War Revision

BS381CIn 1948, shortly after the Second World War, BS381 was revised as BS381C: Colours for ready mixed paints. A further revision in 1964, published as Colours for ready mixed paints, was described as "for identification or other technical purposes, or for purposes based on long-established practice". Indeed, as post-war Britain sort to rebuild itself and embrace the modern era colour, and by extension, paint seemed to be one way to do so. 

Although each colour within the standard has its own number; each also had its own name, used more often in the past than now. Such names include: Oxford Blue, Brunswick Green (often known as British Racing Green), Light Buff, Camouflage Desert Sand, Signal Red, International Orange, and Dark Admiralty Grey.

The Current Standard

BS4800The current BS4800: 2011 Schedule of paint colours for building purposes is the latest edition of the standard. The first edition was prepared by the Pigments, Paints and Varnishes Standards Committee and was based on a draft, drawn up by the Paintmakers Association of Great Britain and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Together with BS381C, this standard is still widely used in certain sectors of industry in the UK and the Commonwealth; although the European RAL System is slowly displacing British Standard colours.

Whilst the BSC is still commonplace and used throughout a variety of industries, other colour systems such as Pantone and the aforementioned RAL system have become increasingly popular and set the standard - perhaps reflecting Britain's decline as an influence on the World. What does remain however, is the nostalgia attached to some of the classic colours and epoques where the BSC reigned supreme. Indeed, companies have sprung up offering these paints and colours in the form of ceramics, textiles, knits and more allowing those who wish to preserve the past to do so. 


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