Transport design is filled with delightfully modest iconography – we only have to look at the arrows of Gerry Barney’s British Rail logo, Edward Johnston’s classic London Underground roundel or Lance Wyman’s line-based symbol for the Mexico City Metro to see the effectiveness of simplicity.
The Czech Republic’s main railway has now taken on a similar style, with Prague-based Studio Marvil giving Government-run rail company SŽDC a new visual identity.
SŽDC stands for Správa Železniční Dopravní Cesty in Czech, translating to The Railway Infrastructure Administration in English. Understandably, the designers thought this was a little wordy.
The studio created a logo which neatly turns a “Ž” into a symbol for three parallel railway tracks, linked by a railroad switch. The Ž also acts as an abbreviation for Železnice, meaning “railway”.
In turn, the abstract symbol is turned into more obvious imagery for railway tracks when used across print communications and posters.
“The complete, official name is almost unmemorable, even for Czech native speakers,” says Pavel Zelenka, partner at Studio Marvil. “We aimed for a simple symbol that could be easily remembered.”
An extended, sans-serif typeface Styrene has been used, and a colour palette of orange, royal blue and cyan blue.
“We wanted to use a high contrast colour scheme,” says Zelenka. “Deep blue is traditionally associated with railways in Czechia, and orange was a rational choice because it is not used by companies operating on Czech railroads. Cyan was added to expand the palette for web, animation and corporate clothing.”
The overall look aims to help the company appear more “comprehensible” for the Czech public, Zelenka adds.
“SŽDC is one of the largest employers in the country and yet it is still almost unknown and invisible,” he says. “And for those who do know it, it is perceived as a post-Communist relic. But it has ambitious plans to modernise Czech railroads in the future.”
The SŽDC railways have transported commuters, tourists and cargo across passenger and freight trains since 2003, and is currently the Czech Republic’s biggest national carrier. It is ranked fourth in Europe in terms of the volume – number of people and goods – it carries.
The new visual identity is currently rolling out across print marketing materials, staff and internal communications such as name badges and business cards, and train livery. It is yet to roll out online.