This was the first piece of graphic design, as opposed to an illustration or photograph, that made me say ‘wow’. As a child, I would watch it trundle merrily by stuck to a grubby engine, or see it quietly endorsing a ticket or empowering a station master. It’s still one of my absolute favourites and testament to its quality is the fact it has survived while the company itself has long since departed. Today it simply means train or travel, another interesting aspect to it is that it does this without any words, the symbol as shorthand for meaning, we think Nike is innovative for doing it today, this was created in 1965.
The double-arrow logo as it’s correctly called, was a graphic masterpiece by DRU's Gerald Burney. It represents two tracks, heading in different directions, and crossed by stylised points.
When British Rail asked the Design Research Unit, Britain's first multi-skilled design consultancy, founded by Misha Black in 1943, to come up with a new corporate logo, it nurtured a brilliant and lasting symbol that has easily stood the test of time.
The logo disappoints only in promising a coherent, integrated rail network, when the reality was a Pandora's Box-on-tracks. And, where Burney's logo was the key graphic element in an integrated design programme, today's trains are decked out in gimmicky typefaces and lurid colour schemes, the only point of cohesion being a singular mark on signs and tickets that lets you know, the journey's ahead.
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