Dubai Metro, the country’s first-ever public transport system, which opens next year, is posing an unprecedented challenge for the graphic designers involved in its realisation.
UK group Transport Design Consultancy, which has just completed the Dubai Metro signage and graphics system, is having to rethink brand strategy for the system, ahead of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s announcement that it is to offer opportunities for corporate branding and sponsorship for each of its 50 stations.
It will be the world’s first public transport system to use corporate branding and sponsorship.
‘We’ve had to put brand strategy to one side, while we look at the more immediate problem of applying sponsorship branding to each station and possibly each Metro line. We’ve had to write a set of rules as to how each sponsor company can brand stations or lines,’ says TDC founder Tony Howard.
Twenty-three of the stations have been earmarked, according to Howard, though RTA is not expected to announce details until next March, ahead of the metro’s opening in September. TDC will have to work separately with each sponsor company on implementation. ‘We’ll have to start to implement the branding of each sponsored station and then resolve how these sponsor brands fit within the overall public transport system,’ says Howard.
Every item of information – from ticketing to maps and station navigation – has to communicate clearly the purpose and role of each element of the transport system, because the local population has never used public transport before.
‘We take it for granted in the UK, but it will be a totally new experience for Dubai. [The signage] has been a very large educational job,’ says Howard. As a result, the graphics are heavily diagrammatic.
A dual Arabic and Latin font, developed by Dalton Maag, is bespoke to Dubai Metro, with stations numbered, rather than lettered, for easier identification.
Signage System for Dubai Metro
• Bespoke typeface, Transport Dubai, is the first to develop both Arabic and Latin characters simultaneously with the same font
• Signing pictograms, designed by Transport Design Consultancy, match the line weight of Transport Dubai typeface characters
• Numbered, rather than named or lettered, stations are used to communicate to a linguistically diverse audience
• Applications include ticketing, directing, naming, location, statutory, fire and emergency signs. Other uses include maps, system- and line-maps, timetables, prohibition notices, door signs and real-time digital messages
• The signage and graphics will be used to integrate future transport systems, such as the proposed high-speed railway and the existing marine transport network