New Rail Alphabet

New Rail Alphabet typeface

We haven't got a logo really. Not in the conventional way that say BP has. We have a logo type. i.e. we use a typeface to spell out the name of our business. Although we carefully got the letter spacing to our liking.

When we reviewed our own branding I searched around for an alternative to Helvetica. Helvetica is one of the places I start with everything I do and then I look for alternatives in order to see if there is a better answer that is more suited to the project.

As a design studio I have always thought that our own ‘logo’ or branding should never eclipse that of the work that we present. We are like a coat hanger and our clients are the brightly coloured clothes that hang from it. Simple, clear and formal. Like good airport signage.

So we wanted an alternative to Helvetica. For a while we sat on two typefaces. One called Aktiv Grotesk by designer Dalton Maag and the other was New Rail Alphabet, a revival of a typeface called British Rail Alphabet designed by Margaret Calvert of Kinneir Calvert Associates in the early sixties.

We plumped for New Rail Alphabet. I love this typeface. It can be neutral which makes it versatile alongside our clients work, but it is also strong and imposing when used on its own. Especially on a large scale. We know it is not far removed from Helvetica but it has some nuances that seem to make it somehow a very English variant on Helvetica. This might come through association as it was originally a signing alphabet used across signage for British Rail, throughout the NHS and all BAA Airports. It evokes the 1960s and 1970s and reminds me of the Letraset transfers I had as a kid and the book of typefaces my dad gave me, which I photocopied over and over again to make poster headlines.

The New Rail Alphabet was produced by a designer called Henrik Kubel of A2/SW/HK in collaboration with Margaret Calvert1 and is available in six weights – and also as a web font so you can use it on your website, like we have.

1 Find out more at www.newrailalphabet.co.uk

It evokes the 1960s and 1970s and reminds me of the Letraset transfers I had as a kid and the book of typefaces my dad gave me, which I photocopied over and over again to make poster headlines.

Scott Poulson