For many decades national railway companies benefited from their monopoly positions, but when European economies began the move toward free market conditions, privatisation of railways became the watchword to guarantee better and more transparent public transport services. But then progressive replacement of nondescript national railway images by the specific brands of new operators began to generate confusion.
Three ex-NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen – Holland’s national railways) employees set up a think-tank to create a new “Spoorbeeld” (railway image), an umbrella image that would go beyond those of individual operators. The aim of this project, launched five years ago, was to create a universal identity for the overall railway environment.
The brand-new NS information columns now found in Dutch stations are the first fruit of this strategy. They have an inviting rounded, convex shape and a welcoming, “intimate” concave area, while the oval graphic style evokes interaction.
The colour and shape of the trains also play an important role in promoting a railway’s image, but in the recently standardised rolling stock sector there’s little initiative in terms of individual design. Today’s trains and carriages are just box-like industrial containers, whereas railway operators should be out there proposing their own design needs, while letting railway sector experts have their say too. For 35 years now bright yellow has been the traditional colour used for Dutch public transport and it’s still the focal point of the colour scheme for rolling stock in the “Spoorbeeld” project, along with white and the colours of individual railway operators.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 151