Title: Face- lift for BR
Pages: 46 - 51
Author: Robert Spark
Face-lift for BR
by Robert Spark
Although great many individual modernisation projects have been undertaken by British Railways over the last few years, there has been nothing to link them together visually. The 'image' has remained basically unchanged: an outdated, confused and disorganised transport system. The new corporate identity programme, which forms the subject of an exhibition in The Design Centre from January 5-23, is intended to change this outlook.
It has been realised, somewhat belatedly, that the right identity is not merely a designer's foible but has solid commercial value. The new BR programme does in fact implement one of the concluding remarks made in the opening article in the special railways issue of DESIGN (171/43-44): "Looked at overall, perhaps the basic feature which is still lacking is a universally applied house style of a high standard".
The new programme has been the British Railways Board Design Panel's most important task in 1964. Much of the work involved has been the responsibility of a working party consisting of industrial designers and members of British Railways staff, under the chairmanship of Milner Gray. When approval had been obtained from the board, an internal steering committee under the chairmanship of George Williams, director of industrial design for the railways, was formed; this is concerned with the development of the style and its implementation. There are four basic visual elements of the new style: a symbol, a logotype, a name-style and house colours. To be effective these elements need to be applied to every facet of the railway system: locomotives and passenger and freight rolling stock; stations, town offices and other architecture; signposting of all kinds; uniforms; road transport; ships; print, publicity, sales aids and exhibitions. Unfortunately, the immediate and widespread application of the various components of the programme is not practicable because of both time and cost. Also, it is clear that the BRB is uncertain of the suitability and effectiveness of some of the proposals, and is only sanctioning limited applications at this stage. Obviously, the longer the programme is extended in time, the more its effectiveness will be reduced.
1 One of the first applications of the new livery will be on BR ships. Already several vessels are being repainted in the new colours, the first being Colchester. The full scheme is shown above, superimposed on a drawing of the Avalon: the hull will be blue with a grey superstructure. The black-topped funnel is red with the new symbol in white. The new scheme makes an interesting comparison with the livery proposed in the railways issue of DESIGN (171/74). Its introduction is particularly propitious as several ships are under construction for BR and others are being modernised.
On the plus side is the fact that at last BR will have a national Identity, instead of a number of regional identities of limited impact. The house colours are the monastral blue and pearl grey employed on the XP64 coaches(DESIGN189/42-45),together with flame red, which will be used as a background colour for the symbol. The latter, intended to symbolise the two-way flow of traffic, gets completely away from lions, wheels, heraldry and the other out-of-date paraphernalia that have been used up to now. A new alphabet will be used for all signposting, while "British Rail" will, in certain circumstances, replace "British Railways" or "BR". The new name would appear to be the least satisfactory aspect of the new programme, as it seems to offer no great advantage and has an odd connotation, particularly when spoken. A manual of instructions (on the lines of that issued by BEA) will be issued to ensure that the new proposals are adhered to.
Apart from the creation of the corporate identity programme, the Design Panel has also been engaged on a number of independent design studies covering passenger coach interiors of various kinds. One of these - a suggested scheme for a first class lounge car - has appeared in full-size mock-up form (see page 51). It attracted considerable attention at the Scottish industries Exhibition and is now being evaluated by the commercial department of BR. A club car (also based on this design), a high density suburban coach, a luxury sleeping car and a convertible day/night coach are other vehicles that have been studied by the panel.
2 Station nameboards will feature the new symbol and the logotype 'British Rail". Those on the London Midland 2 Station nameboards will feature the new symbol and the logotype 'British Rail". Those on the London Midland Region's main line from London (Euston) to Manchester and Liverpool are likely to be among the first to use the new style. This route will be opened throughout for electric traction in 1966, and is being used as a 'platform' for the corporate identity programme. There will be no uniform colours for stations as a whole, as BR thinks this would be undesirable, and would cut right across the minor station improvements scheme - which recommends that paint colours should harmonise with the colours of unpainted surfaces (such as bricks, stone, etc) and with the character of their surroundings. The new alphabet will be used for station signs.
3- The symbol and the "British Rail" logotype, designed by Design Research Unit, will be used extensively in publicity and advertising. But the logotype will be used only in these applications and on station name boards. This restricted use seems unfortunate, and the words themselves do not read easily. It is doubtful, for instance, if "British European Air" would ever be seriously proposed by BEA, let alone accepted; although slightly more compact forms such as "Air France" and "Swissair" have admittedly gained wide acceptance.
4-8 It is intended to apply the symbol on a large scale. Apart from its use on station nameboards, publicity matter of all kinds and ship funnels, it will probably appear on many accessories. A variety of mock-up applications is shown here. Whereas it is perfectly justifiasble in the small scale contexts and on publicity material, its use for decorative effect as a small repeat pattern on carpets or curtains may destroy its real purpose. At this stage the BR Board has not approved the symbol's use on the new uniforms or on locomotives or rolling stock. It is possible that it will eventually be used on locomotives - either cast or in stainless steel - and a firm plan for its application in this way seems to be a peculiar omission at this stage.
Identification of stations is in a medium weight letter in white on blue. Direction signs are in a weighted letter in black, with the indication in blue. The lettering has been drawn on equal spacing tiles, the black letters being evenly weighted all round to correct halation at the appropriate reading distance. Colours are used functionally, black indicating a requirement, blue where it is to be found, red for prohibition and green for information. The system is flexible, and the Illustrations how the following applications: a station platform name board, a bank of direction signs, an arrow tile, a medium and heavy weight letter tile, and scia signs. The signs were designed by Kinneir Associates.
10 Containers for the liner trains will be in grey, with a red band bearing the symbol and the word "Freightliner". Otherwise, freight rolling stock will not be affected by the new scheme. Existing containers also remain unchanged, and the yellow livery of the road freight transport, together with the recently introduced freight symbol, are being retained for the time being.
11-13 Lounge car This is intended to provided high standard of comfort for first class passengers. The lounge 'unit' is equivalent in size to two standard compartments, and has 10 seats. One coach could consist of two or three units, the remaining area being occupied by traditional compartments, or by luggage storage or food preparation space. Of the 10 seats in each lounge, six are fixed, the others being individual swivelling armchairs. A large proportion of the corridor partition would be glazed, with floor-to-ceiling curtains. There would be power-operated Venetian blinds on the window side. The lounge is panelled throughout in timber and has a press-button-operated litter receptacle. Attendant call switch, light switch and ashtray are incorporated in the arms of the swivel chairs. The seating is upholstered in a combination of leather or pvc and fabric. A small folding table is provided for the passengers In the fixed window seats. Compared with the X P64 coaches, the general appearance is less fussy, there is a greater feeling of space, and the seats are more comfortable. The lounge car was designed by BR's consultant designers, Wilkes and Ashmore.