Yellow Pages’ Tube of paint

Train painting is an activity traditionally confined to paunchy, middle-aged model enthusiasts, sporting glasses and a threadbare bodywarmer.

But this project by Rufus Leonard for Yellow Pages is on a different scale altogether. It might not be the very first time a London Underground train has been painted, but it is certainly the most ambitious project of its kind to date.

The client approached Rufus Leonard to create a livery for an entire Circle Line train – 93m long and 3.6m high – as an extension of its campaign to put a more human face on Yellow Pages. At 670m2, the ad is reckoned to be the biggest in the world.

Recent television advertising had aimed to reposition the brand away from its slightly stuffy, ‘plumbing and funerals’, image to one a little more sparky and positive.

‘We were briefed to look at the different classifications in Yellow Pages to make people aware of the tremendous variety it covers. We wanted to show it was more than just a directory, that it was something integral to peoples lives,’ says Rufus Leonard project manager Jane Jones.

As well as the train, the designs will appear on a number of London bus ‘mega rears’ and selected Circle Line escalator arches.

What sets this train apart from its painted counterparts is the subtlety of the branding, says Jones. ‘Obviously we did want to get the branding across, but we didn’t want it to seem too corporate because that could come across as negative. The whole point of the exercise is to cheer people up, to give them something entertaining, rather than to annoy them by ramming Yellow Pages down their throat,’ she says.

While the branding message behind the choice of the Circle Line – due to the characteristic colour yellow it shares with the client’s pages – is fairly obvious, the Yellow Pages branding achieves the intended subtlety on the exterior of the train.

On the interiors, however, the branding is a little more flagrant, with the chairs sporting the branding to the hilt. All the ‘Tube car panels’ above the seats will feature Yellow Pages advertisements.

The exteriors are visually stunning and made all the more so by the sheer scale of the train and the speed at which it approaches the stations. The project also gives words a prominence often lacking in design, enhancing the meaning of the photographs. Some images play with the words, such as the baby on a sofa under the listing Babysitting, while others, such as the image of a dinosaur under Antique Dealers are more tangentially related to their subjects.

However, the incredibly scampish dog under Burglar Alarms is likely to emerge as the capitals favourite.

Other images are more obviously metropolitan – a yellow beetle, a club queen and a dog race.

‘We wanted to come up with things relevant to Londoners’ lifestyles and the images had to have a sense of perspective, because we wanted to bring the train to life. And because a lot of people will see the train on a regular basis, we put in details that you only notice when you are close-up and so hopefully you will see a different thing each time,’ Jones adds.

Jones has tried to cover all bases. ‘Every kind of person uses the Tube, and everyone needs a service of some kind, so we have tried to cover everything and everybody,’ she says.

The technical challenges of paint application were immense: the fire and safety regulations of London Underground demand that all materials on the exterior of the train are zero-rated for fire and fumes and so the images had to be litho-printed on to transfer material in sections.

Designer: Rufus Leonard

Client: Yellow Pages

Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles