Queen’s Baton: An Epic Journey for 4c Design

September 1, 2014

William Mitchell, Design Director at 4c Design Ltd in Glasgow, reflects on his personal experience of being appointed to design the Queen’s Baton for the XX Commonwealth Games, explaining how they tackled the brief and what inspired their design…


A friend of mine said to me in October 2012, 4c Design should apply for this. It is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

The opportunity was to design the Baton for the Queen’s Baton Relay. The lead up and starting pistol for the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.

I guess when put like that, the daunting tender process, the hours of research and preparation and the interviews pale into insignificance when you consider the prestige of such a design contract.

4c Design is a small diverse team of engineers and product designers, more accustomed to designing machines, tools and products for industry than anything so prestigious or symbolic.

We recognised this would be a great project for the team at 4c and an opportunity to showcase our skills and capabilities. This could really put us on the map.
We made it our mission to get that contract!

In April 2013, we received news we had won the contract and subsequently soaked the office in Champagne. This had been no mean feat, several companies had applied and competition was fierce.

We kicked off with a meeting, which included some of the team from Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee and a few of us. The point was to encapsulate what the Baton meant to them and how it should represent the brand, the games and the people of Glasgow. With this captured it was over to 4c Design to build the story behind the Baton.

Simply put:

‘From the story comes the brief, from the brief, comes the design and by knowing the story you can own the design’

We wanted people to discuss the various elements of the design and what they all meant. We wanted people to be intrigued by its construction and look at all the detail. This was after all the true emblem of the vision and values of the Commonwealth and a key role in the build up to the Games around the world and at home.

No pressure then!

The design was inspired by Glasgow architecture, design and engineering. Its past heritage and its future. A celebration of craftsmanship and cutting edge technology. It was inspired by the games, the athletes and the symbolism of the message.

Never before had anyone thought to show the message in the Baton and allow people to see the paper scroll with Queen Elizabeth’s signature. A reassuringly visible message to the Commonwealth, yet unreadable through the complex latticework.

The handle was constructed using wooden boatbuilding techniques, skills that built the city of Glasgow and the industry on the Clyde. This was intertwined with a titanium latticework which was designed on the latest computer aided drafting software and 3D printed.

To celebrate the epic journey and embrace the diverse cultures of the Commonwealth, a precious gift was revealed at every stop on the Relay from the top of the Baton by opening a puzzle mechanism. This was made using granite from the Isle of Ailsa Craig, just off the west coast of Scotland. Literally a piece of our land.

The Baton has been internationally celebrated and tens of thousands of photos taken of its journey. It was featured on TV programmes, newspapers, blogs and of course at the opening ceremony of the games, where it simply decided it needed a little more limelight before its duties were complete.

I am understandably proud of the team at 4c Design and all the suppliers who made the project such a success, but also immensely grateful to the Glasgow 2014 Queen’s Baton Relay team for selecting us to design and manufacture the Queen’s Baton.

What’s your thoughts on a local agency being appointed to design the Queen’s baton and what do you think it means for the wider creative industry in Glasgow? Post your comments here on tweet us @CreativeClyde.

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Image source: Daily Record