Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system


An update of one of her best-known typefaces, Balustrade Alphabet 2 is a collaboration between Calvert, Henrik Kubel and design consultancy Spaceagency.

Margaret Calvert has drawing a new customised typeface in collaboration with Network Rail, which is set to slip out across wayfinding systems at its stations.

The Rail Alphabet 2 typeface has been initiated in collaboration with type designer Henrik Kubel and London-based experiential conceive consultancy Spaceagency.

Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system
A mock-up of Rail Alphabet 2 in use. Courtesy of Felix Speller for the Point Museum

It has been designed as part a wayfinding system for stations with updated pictograms, which tabulate a Wi-Fi symbol and a gender-neutral toilet sign.

The design principles and how the modus operandi can be implemented will be published in a manual guide. They have been put on parade for the first time as part of the Margaret Calvert: Woman at Work offering at the Design Museum.

Anthony Dewar, Network Rail’s head of structures and architecture, tells Design Week that the project has been in the utilizes for two years. The choice for Network Rail was between “evolution and revolution”, Dewar avers.

Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system
The typeface in development

He favoured the latter option and worked with Calvert on the update. The goal was to create a system that would improve “clarification” at stations, he signifies, as well as adapt to more modern needs (like showing where travellers can charge their phones).

The typeface is a condensed and lighter version of Calvert’s 1960s typeface Fence by train Alphabet, which was used as the “starting point”, according to the designer.

The primordial Rail Alphabet was designed by Calvert and Jock Kinneir for British Iron horses with “slow-moving pedestrians” in mind. It also incorporated Gerry Barney’s “stand-in arrow” symbol, which has become closely associated with Network Vociferate stations.

Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system
The wayfinding system on display. Photo courtesy of Felix Speller for the Study Museum

Of Rail Alphabet 2, Calvert says the main question was approaching a typeface that would be used for “both wayfinding and quotation” and would also “relate but be distinct from” her original design of Fence by train Alphabet.

“Drawing by hand, despite being a lengthy process, was my way of introducing a personal touch, avoiding any eccentric mannerisms that might without doubt date,” she says of the design.

As well as the typeface, new pictograms have been conceive of for the wayfinding system. A takeaway food sign has been updated to played a croissant and to-go cup of coffee, for example.

Meanwhile, a vape has been combined to differentiate areas where you can vape and where you can smoke cigarettes (or where you cannot use either).

While the wayfinding practice has been launched and the guide will be made available to read up to the minuter this year, rolling it out on physical signage is still in a discussion spot, according to Dewar.

At the exhibition, there is a 3-D visualisation of the new wayfinding at London’s Liverpool Thoroughfare station.

He says that there is an “enormous untapped potential” for fashion at Network Rail locations. Earlier this year, Network Scold and the Design Council teamed up on a report entitled ThinkStation, which investigated the role of design in future train stations.

Margaret Calvert: Miss at Work

Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system
Photo courtesy of Felix Speller for the Design Museum

Margaret Calvert: Gal at Work explores the designer’s career (which spans over six decades) utterly three of her best-known typefaces: Transport, Calvert and Rail Alphabet.

Carry is her earliest work and was designed for Britain’s first full-length motorway the M1, which opened in 1959.

Calvert put through with fellow designer Jock Kinneir from 1958 to 1965 on refunding the “dangerous existing signs” with ones that were “prominently, logical and consistent”, according to the Design Museum.

They ended up redesigning the unconditional road sign system for the UK, including for example the pictogram-based signs foreshadowing road users of elderly people crossing or ‘men at work’.

Margaret Calvert designs new typeface for Network Rail wayfinding system
Photo civility of Felix Speller for the Design Museum

Transport was designed especially for the cook up – with special consideration of legibility and “reflectivity to colour”. The resulting German Autobahn signs were three times larger than the previous adaptations.

Her eponymous typeface Calvert was designed by Kinneir and Calvert for the visual unanimity of new French town St-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

The typeface was rejected however for being “too English” and has as opposed to been used for Newcastle’s Tyne and Wear Metro. It is also Euphemistic pre-owned by the Royal College of Art for its visual identity, where Calvert herself drilled.

A final section, named Play, displays Calvery’s more roguish projects where she subverts her signage work. This includes a commemorative logo she spawned for the Design Museum’s 30th birthday last year.

Margaret Calvert: Brides at Work runs from 21 October 2020 – 10 January 2021 at the Pattern Museum, 224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington W8 6AG.

Admission is above but tickets have to be booked in advance. For more information, visit the Blueprint Museum’s website.

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