The trains might often get delayed but one thing you can rely on with the British transport system is a regular turnover of identity and graphic design, much of it wonderful. Creative Review featured a set of fabulous mini identities designed by Lloyd Northover for Railtrack’s major stations in the nineties. Above is one for Paddington featuring a witty nod to that station’s architecture. Below are Charing Cross and London Bridge (with its view across the Thames)…
With successive companies managing the rail system it seems that these designs (which have always been something of a grace note on a bigger identity project) are now falling into disuse. The Beauty of Transport blog suggests that when they turn up as ephemera in auctions years from now they will be collector’s classics. (Which makes me wonder, who are the bigger nerds – train spotters or design junkies?)
What I love about the designs (apart from their elegant wit) is their existence in the first place. There was no burning need for them, but people thought them sufficiently worthwhile to invest time and money nevertheless. I find this heartening as it suggests not everything has to be about the bottom line.
Visiting the London Transport Museum a while back I snapped this train livery, wondering why such attractive craftsmanship seems beyond our reach these days. Why do all the new rail companies have such cheap looking logos and application? Are we just lazy? The Lloyd Northover designs prove that the old spirit of making a bloody effort is still alive and kicking. One hopes that whoever follows next in the ownership and rebranding of our railways will open up yet more opportunities for design to follow in this grand tradition. You might call it ‘design for design’s sake’. But if it gladdens the heart and pleases the eye, why should this be a criticism?