And then the final example of favourite formative visual influences from my childhood was British Rail, or more acutely, its symbol. Yep, got to thank my dad for this one too. When asking what it stood for he simply replied “it means taking you there and bringing you back.” Two arrows, top to tail, interlinked, that looked a bit like a train track. All I could think was that the people that think of these of these things and then draw them are geniuses. I was in awe of all of it. Road signs, pub signs, train signs.
Now, I would imagine if you've got this far dear reader, given that you're reading Grafik, the big reveal that these were done by the Design Research Unit (and in the case of the motorway signs, by the ex-DRU designer Jock Kinneir, along with Margaret Calvert), will come as no surprise. But put yourself in my shoes. I grew up before the internet, before cool collectable coffee table design books. Before it was remotely conversation-worthy to say that this kind of thing gave you a mental tingle. And as for picking graphics at school, not a hope. I don't even think the term graphic design was uttered by any teacher in my school. There was technical drawing and art and nothing in between. So who did this stuff for a living? It was only later, a decade or more later in fact, that I started my own digging into design history that I discovered that was this particular group of individuals, who joined forces and worked as Design Research Unit, which is as cool a name for a collective as it is possible to imagine. They weren't interested in designing for other designers. They were public facing problem solvers. Their work is what I think of as the high watermark of popular modernism and communication design for all; forward thinking, unpatronising, democratic, always sober occasionally witty, always brilliant.