As part of the Kickstarter campaign to reproduce the iconic British Rail Corporate Identity Manual, kck.st/1XjHYU, these notes document British Rail through its design and ideas.

British Rail symbol

The brilliance of the British Rail Double Arrow isn’t just in its clever symbolism. Many people who have tried to reproduce the symbol over the years have mistakenly believed that it’s a case of organising five lines in a basic geometric order.

 

Gerry Barney (who designed the Double Arrow symbol when working for Design Research Unit) introduced many tiny optical corrections. However the real genius is how these refinements were systemised. It is one thing to create a visually accurate marque but it’s quite another to design it in such a way that it allowed other designers, sign writers or engineers to reproduce it perfectly. The symbol can be drawn from an eight by five base unit grid, with subdivisions of six, containing further divisions of four.

British Rail flying saucer

With maybe the exception of Virgin, when was the last time you were on a train and asked yourself if the company operating it was thinking about how they could transport you in a UFO type vehicle?

In 1970 British Rail filed a patent for a nuclear fusion powered flying saucer. This could been see as a tremendous waste of public funds, but for me it shows that British Rail truly was an organisation looking towards the future.

British Rail International

British Rail was of course predominantly known for its mainland services within Britain, however it did also have an international arm.

The beauty in these graphics are that they never highlighted international travel as being anything different than taking a train to Durham. Although possibly done unintentionally, the normalisation of the design portrayed a nonchalant notion that it was an everyday occurrence to take the night train to Paris.