With the recent launch of the latest gem from Unit Editions, Manuals 1 Design and Identity Guidelines, we thought we would showcase what we feel are the top 5 transport related identities.
Starting with a homegrown design classic…
1. British Rail Identity
In 1964 Design Research Unit, Britain’s first multi-disciplinary design agency, were commissioned to breathe new life into the nation’s neglected railway industry. The agency, founded by Misha Black in 1943, were invited to come up with a new corporate logo. They produced a brilliant and lasting symbol that has easily stood the test of time since was first seen.
Design Research Unit conceived the famous ‘double arrow’, a remarkably robust and memorable icon that has far outlasted British Rail itself and continues to be used on traffic signs throughout the United Kingdom as the symbol for the national rail network and more specifically railway stations on that network. The logo is a masterpiece. It represents two tracks, heading in different directions, and crossed by stylised points. Ever since, it has symbolised not just British Rail, but the very notion of mainline rail travel.
2. Canadian National Rail Identity
An internationally known symbol since 1960. The company decided to proceed with a broad overhaul of it’s visual image. The heart of the program was to design a new corporate logo, so the logo had to be right. Designer Allan Fleming was tasked with his mission to create a trademark that would accomplish many things. It had to be bilingual and it had to work on the smallest of business cards as well as on moving trains and large buildings. Most of all the logo had to show a company that was progressive, dynamic and future-orientated.
After experimenting with countless possibilities, Fleming hit on a particularly inspired design while sitting on a New York-bound airplane. He quickly sketched the idea on a cocktail napkin – and CN’s logo was conceived. Studying the Christian cross and the Egyptian symbol for life, he borrowed the idea of using a line of single thickness. “The single thickness stoke is what makes the symbol live,” Fleming later said. “Anything else would lack the immediacy and vigour.”
The continuous flowing line symbolised “the movement of people, materials, and messages from one point to another,” Fleming said. As the eye moves from “C” to “N”, the image suggests fluidity and motion. “It’s a route line that incidentally spells CN.”
3. Lufthansa Identity
Deutsche Lufthansa is one of the most important airlines in the world. Just as long and varied as its history is the history of its visual identity. The beginning of the 1960s witnessed one of the most important developments in corporate communication. The company employed the designer Otl Aicher and his Gruppe E5 student group at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm to develop a new visual identity for Lufthansa. Largely implemented in 1963, today it ranks as one of the most ground breaking corporate design solutions of the twentieth century.
Otto Firle created the original logo back in 1918, the stylised crane. The design was intended to accentuate both flying and technical skills. It is still the Lufthansa logo, although its form changes down the years. The Lufthansa visual identity consists of three colours; yellow, blue and white. All these colours exemplify modernism, excellence and commitment in service. The use of these colours also embodies safety, peace, optimism, trustworthiness and sense of responsibility of the airline company. Whatever the reason we think it’s eye-catching and very sophisticated.
4. Nasa Identity
1975. That’s when NASA decided a more modern logo was in order.
Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn were hired to replace the complex ‘meatball’ logo with a stripped-down, modernist interpretation where even the cross stroke of the A’s were removed. During the first design presentation, the proposed system was met with some resistance. Yet design perseverance paid off. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Design Program is a modernist vision for an optimistic future. The logo (often referred to as the “worm”) evoked qualities of unity, technical precision, scientific capabilities and uniqueness. Similar in it’s style to the CN logo; the one width, continuous-stroke letters are as contemporary today as when the logo was first introduced more than 37 years ago. It’s shame that 40 years on the ‘meatball’ was back in play, but we can still relish with this design classic.
5. American Airlines Identity
The famously winged “AA” logo of American Airlines is one of the most memorable airline logos ever created. It was designed by noted Italian graphic designer Massimo Vignelli in 1967 whom has been responsible for many a Helvetica based logo identity, notably the New York subway. Recently redesigned, whether for right or wrong, you can’t take away the simplicity of this original design that stood the test of time and untouched for 40 years. Type led with an eagle emblem that resembled a pilots flight wings it was a bold marque for a bold dream of luxury affordable air travel.