IN NO EVENT SHALL BITSTREAM OR THE GNOME FOUNDATION BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE FONT SOFTWARE OR FROM OTHER DEALINGS IN THE FONT. Rail Alphabet is a typeface designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert for British Railways. First used at Liverpool Street station, it was then adopted by the Design Research Unit (DRU) as part of their comprehensive rebranding of the company. Rail Alphabet is similar, but not identical, to a bold weight of shi.mobilefile.pwry: Neo-grotesque sans-serif. Rail Alphabet / British Rail era. The original Rail Alphabet typeface is a commercial product, however a free version of two similar fonts was made available a number of years ago via the Railways Archive website and can be found on a variety of other websites and forms. May 13, · When British Rail unveiled its comprehensive corporate identity in , one of the key elements which made it work was a new typeface. It was called Rail Alphabet and it has subsequently proved to be the most successful and long-lasting element of the corporate identity. BR’s “rail blue” corporate identity, which was officially applied from. The best website for free high-quality British Rail Light Normal fonts, with 25 free British Rail Light Normal fonts for immediate download, and 41 professional British Rail Light Normal fonts for .
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When British Rail unveiled its comprehensive corporate identity in , one of the key elements which made it work was a new typeface. It was called Rail Alphabet and it has subsequently proved to be the most successful and long-lasting element of the corporate identity. It was designed to wipe out the existing hotchpotch of styles and motifs which had graphically illustrated the confused nature of the business from its creation in until that point.
British Railways as it was publicly known until even had multiple typefaces in use on its signage and its trains. Most frequently seen was Gill Sans, a chilly all-upper case typeface dating from before the second world war and inherited from the London and North Eastern Railway read more about it here.
This bossy and sometimes difficult typeface seemed increasingly out of place in the more informal s, as longstanding social norms were challenged or abandoned. Meanwhile, a condensed narrow rectangular font served for train numbers on many locomotives.
Rail Alphabet was the answer to these challenges. It was a mixed upper and lower case typeface, instantly looking more friendly than Gill Sans. The company had been much impressed by the Transport typeface designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir as part of a comprehensive road network resigning programme launched in the s. As Calvert would later explain, the problem was that Transport was designed to be quickly assimilated by drivers as road signs were approached at speed.
In a station environment, where there was more time to read signage, speed of interpretation was no longer the key concern. If anyone can lay any claim to having branded Britain in the post-war period, it is surely Calvert and Kinneir. It is designed with simplicity in mind, to give information without the character of the lettering distracting from or overwhelming the message being conveyed.
The mix of upper and lower case text was definitely easier to take in than the bossy all-upper case Gill Sans it replaced. As such it was the perfect typeface for British Rail, which was at the time trying to project a new image of low-key, straightforward competence, at some remove from its previous reputation for scandalous financial mismanagement and a confused strategic vision.
Signage at stations was almost exclusively in black text on white backgrounds.
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It was a significant change from the Gill Sans signage it ousted, which had featured white text on darker coloured backgrounds. All the lettering and numbers on trains bar some very minor exceptions was in Rail Alphabet, as was signage inside trains.
It might not have been the most stylish typeface ever created, but Rail Alphabet was perfect for its job, and its lack of overt showiness has given it a timeless quality. A more obviously fashionable typeface would have dated much more quickly. British Airports Authority adopted it for its airports see a picture here , and the Danish state railway operator DSB imported it too see a picture here.
It did mean, however, that if you were in a hospital and presented with directional signage, there was a subconscious feeling that you might be about to miss a train. Vice versa, presented with directional signage at a railway station, you could sometimes get the queasy feeling that you were about to undergo an unpleasant medical procedure. InterCity rebranded in , at which pointed it dispensed with Rail Alphabet for its logo.
Its replacement was a spindly, all-upper case italicised typeface, which lacked the authority of Rail Alphabet and now looks a lot more dated.
However, Rail Alphabet continued to be used for the carriage and locomotive numbers of InterCity trains and for signage at its stations. Though both Regional Railways and Network SouthEast also experimented with new typefaces, they too retained Rail Alphabet for station signage and technical lettering on trains.
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The only cohesive pre-privatisation move away from Rail Alphabet was made by the Parcels sector, which rebranded itself as Rail Express Systems in and used what I think is Frutiger for its train numbers and other signage. Outside the railway, the other users of Rail Alphabet eventually adopted different typefaces.
BAA dropped Rail Alphabet at its airports in favour of something called BAA Bembo which has many fans, but which to me looks irredeemably s and has itself now been replaced by Frutiger.
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The privatisation of the rail network saw a bewildering array of new typefaces introduced to the national railway network.
It would therefore do the job Rail Alphabet had once done; a suggestion to which the DfT cheerfully paid no heed whatsoever.
That said, Rail Alphabet continues to play a key role on the national rail network. A surprising number of train operators still cleave to Rail Alphabet for their train numbers and sometimes station signage, however. Why, after all, meddle with something designed to work specifically on the railway system, unless you have very good reason to? An online version is here. The History Press: Stroud, Gloucestershire.
As detailed here , the font was digitised a few years ago, and is available here.
What a find! Thanks Alex, glad you enjoyed it. My particular least-favourite is the one used on the Network West Midlands stations around Birmingham. Excellent article, as usual. I more than agree that the Network West Midlands typeface looks childish and incredibly out of place. In Helvetica, it has a little curl. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account.
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Notify me of new posts via email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Skip to content When British Rail unveiled its comprehensive corporate identity in , one of the key elements which made it work was a new typeface. Rail Alphabet. Picture by Pneumaman UniversSpec.
This is Charing Cross in Rail Alphabet signage at Preston station. This is a typical BR scene, Rail Alphabet in black on a white background, distinctive directional arrows and pictograms, and everything sign and building a bit grimy.
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Data panel on a British Rail locomotive. Charing Cross station in The train numbers are also in Rail Alphabet. Rail Alphabet on a railway trackside safety notice. BBC, London doublearrow. Like this: Like Loading Apart from that — a very interesting post. Article now corrected and thank you for your kind words.
So, Rail Alphabet has in fact got two names! Context is everything! Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.
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