Dating back to 1923 with the first use of the LNER acronym that, at the time, stood for London and North Eastern Railway, the newly renamed (sort of) London North Eastern Railway (and LNER for short again) is a British train operating company that operates the InterCity East Coast railway franchise on the East Coast Main Line, which runs from London Kings Cross to North East England and Scotland. From 2015 to 2018 the franchise was run by Virgin, operating as Virgin Trains East Coast; before that it was run by East Coast Main Line Company from 2009 to 2015; and before that things get long and not very interesting so we’ll skip it. The last time the LNER name was used was in 1948 and now it rides again under ownership of UK’s Department for Transport who took back the reigns from Virgin after it failed to run the line successfully. The new identity has been designed by Gloucestershire, UK-based Brand Cooke.
The transition from Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) had to be smooth one and it also needed to be cost effective. To bring back the ‘Apple Green’ or ‘Garter Blue’ colour palette from LNER’s glory years, when interiors of the new VTEC Azuma fleet had already been agreed and produced, would have been a costly exercise. We also wanted to make sure the rebrand from ‘Day One’ was credible and not a sticking plaster exercise, and where possible we produced new collateral from scratch.
The bold but simple typography of LNER and the dynamic directional N acts as bold divider device for colour and images. Not everyone will know what LNER stands for so we also designed a descriptor to spell it out.
The old logo had the usual Virgin sub-brand-consistency-be-damned approach where each of their logos does some ugly thing and this was an exemplary specimen, with two beveled swooshes coming out of the Virgin logo with some haphazardly-sized and placed typography to complete the name. The new logo scrapes away all Virgin-ness except for the red color to maintain some continuity. It is rendered in a geometric sans (looks like it’s possibly based on Gotham) with exaggerated spikes in the “N”s. That gesture works decently in the acronym, creating a distinctive feature for the rail line; it’s not entirely pleasant though as there is a heaviness to that side of the acronym that makes it feel imbalanced. In the wordmark, the spiky “N”s — and there is a lot of them — look almost cartoonish or like a joke that didn’t know when to stop… not even when it got to the “W” and “A” in “RAILWAY” where the spikes shooting over and under the X-height is downright laughable (wherein we laugh at it, not with it).
The acronym is somewhat engagingly brought to life with a bold and striking background treatment that splits across the angle of the “N” into red and an image. The LNER typography holds up well with the busy backgrounds and certainly demands attention in the applications.
The newest fleet of trains on the line are nicknamed Azuma and they use a flipped “N” as the “Z”. It’s not entirely pleasant either but it’s actually kind of clever in tying it in with the new logo.
Overall, the applications look good from a distance as they make a big visual splash and the diagonal element has the potential to become well recognized across train stations.
Thanks to Adam Whitham for the tip.