Gerry Barney trained as a type designer and was working under DRU Founding Partner Milner Grey when British Railways (as it was at the time) briefed them to create a modern, unified, identity system for the network.
Much as rail travel drove the necessity for unified timekeeping in the Nineteenth Century, it did the same for corporate identity in the Twentieth. Passengers could board a train in London and arrive in Edinburgh, therefore it should be expected that the communication was similarly joined-up, from signage to uniforms, advertising to liveries.
Tasked with creating something ‘timeless’, Barney’s solution was simply two rails and a set of points. As he explained himself: “It worked because it was obvious. When you think of railways, you think of parallel lines: up this way, down that way.” Sketched onto the back of an envelope (as all the best ideas inimitably are) on his commute to the studio, Barney’s solution was one of fifty symbols developed and presented to British Railways’ board representatives before being narrowed down to six.