The BR Logo – Letting The Train Take The Strain

When I was a boy, growing up in the late 70s and early 80s you either had a Hornby Train Set or a Scalextric Racing Car set. I had the Flying Scotsman, in its original green livery, with Pullman coaches. I think this has affected my views on transport ever since. I love trains, I love stations, and I love travelling by rail. I have a secret, love of steam trains too. However…

BR British Rail logo I am also a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, were worlds are often ruled over by kings, queens, wizards, or intelligent shades of the colour blue. This doesn’t mean I want to live in a society like any of these, I’m a democracy man through and through. Kings and queens for fiction, elected representatives for real life. And it’s the same for the railways. Independent railway networks add local colour and personality, steam trains are beautiful and fun, but neither make for an efficient, useful, working, modern network.

I understood this even as a child. While I played with my Flying Scotsman I was fascinated by the 125 Intercity trains, speeding in to town. By the workhorse diesel engines transporting goods. By the whole network, and by the BR British Rail logo. Much like my passion for the Star Wars logo and the Carrefour logo I doubt I even considered that few other people, and fewer of my age, we’re so impressed by the two way arrow design.

BR British Rail logo
I don’t know how old I was when I first realised quite how great a logo the BR British Rail design was. Definitely under 11. It just seemed to clear and obvious to me. It told the story of trains in a clean neat way which the old railway companies had failed to convey. First of all there are, quite obviously the arrows. To my young mind there was no better way to demonstrate motion. However, to make them more impressive one pointed left and one right, just like trains heading along to and from their destinations, heading back and forth.

BR British Rail logo

Of course it was also very clear to me that the two horizontal lines obviously referred to the train tracks themselves. Everybody knows that you need two parallel tracks for the trains to run on, even if sometimes there is a third rail. Clever and simple, and appealing. Further than that, most railway lines run in pairs, an upline and a downline. Not only do the lines represent the parallel lines of the tracks, but also a pair of tracks with each arrow pointing the direction of travel. On the whole the simplicity, the cleaness and the cleverness of the design just captured me, and has stayed with me ever since.

As with all these articles I ask myself how does the logo stack up to my eyes as an adult and experienced graphic designer. In this case? I believe that the BR British Rail logo is a classic of British design equal of many other designs which are lauded by designers the world over. It’s a brilliant example of fantastic graphic design.

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