British Rail Reissues Its Iconic Midcentury Graphic Standards Manuals

Design fiends can’t get their hands on vintage graphic standards manuals fast enough. After a successful Kickstarter, Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda’s classic NYC subway manual went back into print; NASA released a free PDF of its 1975 standards and a viral Kickstarter is at work on a physical copy. Now the British Rail identity is getting a similar treatment.

In the 1940s, Great Britain nationalized its railway system. In the 1950s, it gradually began losing money and traffic declined, so the leadership looked for ways to reverse the misfortune. They decided that a corporate identity could help unify the disjointed railway network and hired the Design Research Unit in 1964 to conceive of the concept, which was finalized in 1965. Gerry Barney, a designer at the firm, created the now-iconic double-arrow symbol.

“It worked because it was obvious,” Barney once said. “When you think of railways, you think of parallel lines: up this way, down that way.”

Smitten with the 1960s and 1970s booklets, graphic designer Wallace Henning is creating a tome composed of the exact content from all four original volumes. The comprehensive manuals contain guidelines for British Rail’s symbol, logotype, lettering, color palette, architecture and signposting, rolling stock, lineside equipment, road vehicles, ships, liner trains, uniforms, and stationery. In addition to having the Department of Transportation’s full blessing, Henning is collaborating with Nick Job, a custodian of the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual.

For $75, you can get your hands on copy by funding Henning’s Kickstarter campaign.