A new book by Kingston University Associate Professor and art historian David Lawrence focuses on British Rail design, from its nationalisation in 1948 until privatisation in 1997.
British Rail Designed 1948-1997 explores the design aspects of the whole network, from typography to uniforms. Prof Lawrence drew on material from private collections, second-hand shops, ebay and archives, after tracing the original designers of the work.
In an interview with Grafik, Prof Lawrence said interest in the topic was definitely not about reminiscing. “The book determinedly avoids nostalgia. Nostalgia could not work, because the whole ethos of all the designers who worked for British Rail was modernity: not looking back.”
Although reluctant to pick favourites from all the design aspects covered in the book, Prof Lawrence opted for the network’s use of colour: “I guess I would have to say that it is actually the colour schemes – or liveries – developed by the design consultants Wilkes & Ashmore and Design Research Unit. These colours were innovative, and bridged industrial practice and new European design ideas.”