Keeping the TfL brand on track

Transport for London is simplifying its design buying as it tries to build an inclusive identity for public transport

London Underground last week announced that it carried more Tube passengers in the previous year, at 976 million, than ever previously. In the kind of statistical outburst that often accompanies such record-breaking, Transport for London proudly claimed that Tube trains travelled the equivalent of 90 trips to the Moon and back, or 42 million miles, in the year to April.

There are plenty more facts too: six million bus trips per day; almost two million National Rail trips per day; Docklands Light Railway passengers have doubled in five years, and so on. As TfL states, the demand on the capital’s transport system is large and growing and London Mayor Ken Livingstone has secured £10bn of finance to improve the whole system over the next five years.

Livingstone’s investment is to shore up a lot of work for designers. From station rebuilds, modernisations and refurbishments to the development of product brand identities, this is a busy period for TfL head of design Innes Ferguson, who will later this year embark on a wholesale review of the company’s three-year design roster.

‘Trying to foresee what you will need over three years is a big challenge,’ says Ferguson. ‘Categories like corporate identity design, interiors, product design and so on are starting to merge and multimedia projects are more common.’

The current roster, put together in April 2003 (DW 10 April 2003), is organised around three frameworks – graphics and corporate identity, product design, architecture and interiors. To respond to the changing nature of projects, Ferguson is considering reducing this to two areas – 2D and 3D – with perhaps five or six consultancies in each. Electronic interface skills will be a prerequisite across both categories.

A review of the roster will kick off soon, with a posting in the Official Journal of the European Union in September. The aim is for the new three-year contracts to be in place by 1 April 2006.

In the meantime, TfL’s investment is creating work for both roster consultancies and external groups. There are plans to extend the successful Oyster smartcard system so that its cards can be used for low value purchases, such as milk or newspapers. Two branding strategies are being developed by Ferguson, which may result in the launch of a distinct identity for the service.

‘We are looking at creating the look and feel for low-value Oyster card usage and this could end up being a whole new product. There are two names that we are trying to obtain the worldwide rights to,’ says Ferguson.

TfL strictly guards its intellectual property rights: the company always owns its design intellectual property, allowing it to generate revenue by exploiting designs that are licensed to third party companies, as it has with Oyster.

London is also set to receive 17 000 new bus stops and 11 000 bus shelters under the improvement plans. Because the project will be valued at more than £150 000, there will be an OJEU tender for the design work.

‘I’m looking to get some young talent to work on this, to create something innovative,’ explains Ferguson. Livingstone is now able to promote integrated ticketing across the whole of London, including overland rail services. To facilitate this, Ferguson’s 14-strong design team is currently looking at design opportunities ‘to get rid of messy sub-branding and overbranding’ and has already brought ‘multi-modal’ services into the design fold, each with its own coded roundel. These include River and Tram transport and the DLR, which is operated by transport company Serco Group rather than TfL.

The in-house design team has also overhauled the brand identity of the Dial-A-Ride disabled persons’ service, creating livery for an incoming fleet of Mercedes vehicles and overhauling its existing minibuses.

‘The minibuses will be rebranded with a dynamic identity, in order to raise them to the same threshold as the Mercedes vehicles. This shouldn’t be a second class service in terms of vehicles and graphics,’ argues Ferguson, clearly aware that with its undeniably rich heritage, London’s transport design should always be first class.


• Five new stations on East London Line (Hoxton pictured) – design brief and contract expected shortly

• Wembley Park station modernisation – Pascal & Watson, architects; also developing signage, corporate identity and standard products

• Stratford DLR platforms – artist’s impression pictured, designers yet to be appointed

• Product, graphics and interiors – £5m forecast spend this fiscal year; current consultancies include Fitch, Rodd Industrial Design, Home, Era Studio, Hoop, Progress and Jedco


• Commences in September with OJEU advertisement

• Likely to be organised into 2D and 3D, with five or six consultancies in each

• New, three-year roster will be in place by 1 April 2006

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