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Oct 08, 2006



As a Yank, I must point out one bad quality of that British train logo, which is that the two "arrows" look more like planes than the parallel lines look like track. You may have more associations in your head linking the logo with trains, but they really do look like planes.


Fair enough point, and I dare say it's not just a 'Yank thing' (would be interesting to get the views of young UK teens today that have not been predisposed to this piece of British train-ography). That said, is association with planes really such a bad thing? It's probably fair to say that planes are regarded as being the most 'superior' form of travel (well, pre-Easy Jet anyway!) so tapping into this discourse has some obvious benefits (heightened emphasis on speed, distance potential etc.). Well, so Saab seem to think so

Top post by the way Ben - bricolage par excellence!

Paul H. Colman

Brilliant. I'm knackered and ready for bed. But decide to check my bloglines before I turn in. No new posts show up for NDG. But I decide to have a look anyway. And I stumble upon this gem of a post.

Reminds me that; yes the web is great, that British Rail used to be great, that blogging is great, and that this site is great.

Nice one Ben.


Being not quite ready for bed yet (clearly I have the graphic design disease as well..), I'd just like to build on my previous point by saying that I think virgin trains have done a commending job of making train travel feel more like air travel (check out the London-Manchester express for a taster). So, clearly the folks over at British Rail had pre-empted not only privatisation of the rail industry but the rise of Sir Richard! Genius indeed

Tom Lewis - Reynier

About 3 weeks ago I finished working for Royal Mail - I was responsible for developing a strategy of commercialising their history and heritage. This is a long story - but to a designer (and it proved so countless times over the 2 years I was there) the material they have (literally) in their vaults is incredible. Thousands of posters, hundreds of thousands of photos, the government's film library, not to mention every piece of artwork ever created for stamps - including those unadopted. The graphic heritage on those shelves dates from 1650 - but the stuff that really rocked was the material from the first half of the 20th C - when 'graphic design' was to some degree 'invented' as an industry - communications grew up, and 'artists' were commissioned for this sort of stuff - as government departments like the Post Office patronised this development. The examples of typography made the heart flutter - when everything was in black and white and the postman always knocked twice.
It's difficult to get across the privelige I felt being a custodian of the opening up of this stuff - and the difficulties I experienced in doing it, incidentally, but thought it worthy of a mention.
I am convinced that the solution to its exploitation as a commercial body is design - led, and that the story of this success would be inextricably linked to a branding exercise leveraging the good old days of the Post Office for the benefit of today's Royal Mail - which has a less than public - service driven perception about it.
On re-reading this comment I realise there's an incoherence about it - but it's probably a suitable postscript to the massiveness of the collection, and of my enthusiasm for 50's design too.


Just saw that great train poster in "The Museum of brands, Packaging and Advertising" Notting Hill, on the weekend, which although boasting one of the longest names in museum history has a few gems in the cupboard, literally, including the 'holiday in skagness' posters too. Worth a look really.


That's a great entry; right up my street; I'm tempted to just cut and past it all and stick it on Ace Jet. I omitted to mention in my railway post http://acejet170.typepad.com/foundthings/2006/09/great_central_r.html that we were on a "Day out with Thomas"; our oldest boy loves all that stuff. Thanks for the links to, well, everything.

Rob Mortimer

Have you seen the new typeface being brough in for US roads. Its remarkably similar to the one in the UK that Jock Kinneir & Margaret Calvert designed.

Great post.

Rob Mortimer

Oh, and because Hong Kong was under British control for so long, all the road signs are pretty much identical to the UK.

It was really disconcerting to be out in rural Hong Kong and see signs I know from home.


I've been wracking my brains on this one, but from my recollection the British Rail train identification system that won loads of awards was done by Roundel - and it was maybe done around the early 80s. The thing was it was a complete identification system for the freight division of British Rail - and I think they'd looked to the Netherlands for inspiration. I recall seeing some pretty wacky train idents on a trip to Amsterdam (and, no, it wasn't the skunk!) - they were probably done by Gert Dunbar.

All of that information was once in the public domain, but of course the early 80s was pre-internet. And I guess it's not yet quite come around for a revisit - hence it's pretty impossible to find on the web. But, just like glossy paper and rounded corners - what goes around comes around.

Maybe Roundel themselves (www.roundel.com) could enlighten us? Although I'm not sure that the Roundel of then is the Roundel of now.


No new posts show up for NDG. But I decide to have a look anyway. And I stumble upon this gem of a post.


Yes Tomi, this is one of the best posts on this blog.

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