I spent most of the 90s travelling around the country Using British Rail, I remember well the day it was privatised in 1996. The pervasive British Rail livery that I’d become so attached to disappeared overnight, replaced with a plethora or ridiculous names and colour schemes. The lovely swing door trains that took me backwards and forwards to Brighton to see my then grilfriend were suddenly emblazoned with ‘Connex South East’ in a hideous yellow font. The same yellow of the waistcoats the staff now wore with light blue jackets. Awful.
In September last year one of the now privatised railways, First Great Western, officially became Great Western Railway. The name can trace its origins back to 1833 when Brunel was still involved with the building of the network, it then disappeared in 1948 as part of the nationalisation program.
It’s unlikely that the renaming of the company will make any difference to the running of the network, it’ll still be flogged for profit and suffer from underinvestment the same as it’s always done. The targets and performance figures will still be massaged by beige management graduates, the profit will be squirrelled away by greedy investors while the employees fall foul of the tabloids.
However, with a rename comes a glimmer of hope courtesy of a complete Pentagram re-brand.
Gone is the ridiculous pink inspired First Great Western livery, replaced by a classy ‘Noir’ colour scheme and a stunning Art Deco style logo. This is what design it’s all about, and it’s also an example of what happens if you let designers look after the aesthetics rather than a marketing department.
Finally someone has taken the initiative and allowed design to lead a brand rather than some ridiculous pretensions to, ‘serving business requirements’.