“Design Icons #6 – The Red Phone Box,” published on youth culture magazine BLOC, reveals the history behind the famous red telephone box. It also chronicles BT’s disastrous attempts to repaint the telephone boxes yellow.
Giles Gilbert Scott’s winning design
In 1924, the London Metropolitan Boroughs ran a competition to find a new design for telephone kiosks. They were unhappy with the Post Office’s K1 design, which was bulky, made from concrete and unsympathetic to the architecture of London’s buildings. The Post Office chose to make Scott’s design the winner.
Scott designed the K2 kiosk from scratch. His preference was for the box to be made from steel and painted silver, but the Post Office opted for cast iron and painted red. The rest is history. Giles Gilbert Scott also designed the concrete K3 kiosk. This was introduced nationwide in 1929. Very few K3 kiosks survive today.
Yellow telephone boxes?
In 1980, in preparation for privatisation, Post Office telephone boxes were rebranded as BT telephone boxes. British Telecom announced shortly afterwards that all red telephone boxes were to be repainted yellow, to match BT’s new corporate colour.
Unfortunately for them, the public had other ideas. The Daily Mail launched a campaign against the colour change, and BT backed down due to overwhelming pressure. Thankfully, BT hasn’t made any further attempts since.
To find out more about the red telephone box’s iconic design and BT’s attempts to make it yellow, we invite you to read the original article published on BLOC Magazine.