The Design History behind the official Commonwealth Programmes (1954, 1958 & 1974)

Commonwealth Games 2014 - Glasgow

Commonwealth Games 2014 – Glasgow

The Commonwealth Games is an international sporting event and occurs every four years. It is the third biggest sporting event after the Olympic Games and the Asian Games.

Throughout the years, The Commonwealth Games as we have known it since 1978, has evolved through a range of identities. Throughout the 1930s to the early 1950s, it was known as the British Empire Games before rebranding to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954. The event was rebranded again in 1970 to the British Commonwealth Games, an identity that only lasted 2 occurrences of the games.

The Commonwealth Games sees athletes from around the Commonwealth – a group of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire compete in a range of sports, hosted in cities selected by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)

When the Scottish city of Glasgow hosts the games in 2014, eighteen cities in seven countries will have hosted the event.

Elanders UK takes a look at the history and design evolution of the official Commonwealth programmes.

Read Design History of the Commonwealth Programmes held in the years 1930 and 1934 

Read on and find out how the design of Commonwealth programmes evolved through the years 1954, 1958 and 1970.



The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in the Canadian city of Vancouver from July 30th to August 7th and were the first games since the name change to the British Empire Games, which took place two years earlier in 1952. The main venue for the event and where the opening and closing ceremonies took place is the Empire Stadium.

The programme design was consistent throughout all programmes created for each event. As the colours have washed out with the age of the programmes, the text was originally white, along with the emblem and the background shape which contains the name of the event.



The 1958 programme is from the second occurrence of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. 1,130 athletes and 28 officials from 35 Commonwealth Nations attended the games to compete between July 18th and 26th 1958.

It was the first time that the Queens Baton Relay (a similar event to the Olympic torch relay) took place and has been conduced prior to each and every British Empire and Commonwealth Games ever since. It was also the first time countries and dependencies including Singapore, Ghana, Kenya and the Isle of Man were presented with medals for the first time.

The programme features uses the colour scheme of red and white with a small red dragon featured in the background, which is the national emblem of Wales. The typeface is serif with all text in uppercase. The only text that doesn’t use the serif typeface is the name of the event, which is styled in a calligraphy font.



The Scottish capital of Edinburgh hosted the British Commonwealth Games in 1970, from July 16th until July 25th. It was a significant year for the Commonwealth Games as they took on the brand of the British Commonwealth Games and it was the first time the games were hosted in Scotland.

As the games continued on in the 1970s, the use of imperial measurement was discontinued and metric measurement units replaced them. When the Jamaican capital of Kingston hosted the games four years earlier, sprints and jumps were measured out in yards with longer marathons measured out in miles. Despite the strong usage of imperial measurements being used in 1966, the 3000 (3 kilometers) meters steeplechase was measured in metric units.

The programme uses a green, white and black colour scheme. The background of the front cover is light green with white text used for the headlines and black text for event information. The typeface is a slab font, which is used throughout.

Keep watching this space for more on Design History behind the official Commonwealth Programmes.

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