Purple train, purple train…


The Elizabeth Line branding was officially launched recently to much media fanfare. The Queen herself even showed up in an outfit to match the official purple livery. However, most of us know the project by its original name of Crossrail. Patrick Glover was responsible for the original Crossrail branding design so we thought we’d ask him about the project and get his views on the new look.

Huddle: I have to say, I was surprised to learn that the line wasn’t going to be called Crossrail, after all. It had kind of stuck.

Patrick: “Yes, when you called me and mentioned the Elizabeth Line, it didn’t mean anything to me, so I Googled it afterwards. There were all those images of the Queen opening it and the purple roundel and it said ‘formerly known as Crossrail' and I thought “Ah-ha!”

So how did you become involved with the original Crossrail project?

“I was working for Bostock and Pollitt where we did quite a lot of work for Transport for London. So we pitched for the Crossrail project brand identity.”

It was never certain to go ahead, was it?

“No, and this was at a very early stage. They were still seeking planning permission and funding. The brief was to create a visual language and a brand so they could get stakeholders involved and present it to government as a going concern.”

So what happened?

“There was quite a lot of energy behind it and Nick Pollitt our creative director had good working relationships with some of the people there which is why we were asked to look at it. We presented a few routes and, in the end, they chose one of my designs.”

What exactly was it that you presented?

“Well, first I did a whole bespoke typographic design. Then I created a marque to represent the connectivity of the lines linking north-east to south-west and north-west to south-east. I guess it was partly inspired by the old British Rail parallel lines logo. Anyway, they liked it and it went through very quickly.”

It’s interesting that the brand was created for the project, not the line itself.

“Yes, often when a big initiative like that is going through a planning process and due diligence, it gets branded precisely for that process. That’s certainly how it was for Crossrail. In fact I think I recall us being told that the name might change. I’m actually surprised how long the old branding hung around. People would tell me they saw my logo today and I’d say ‘What logo?’ I even saw images of it being used on physical ticket offices.”

What did you actually end up delivering?

“My recollection was that we only really did the identify for basic applications like stationery and a brochure. There’s a later iteration with the marque and the name Crossrail underneath. I had nothing to do with that.”

Still, you originated the branding idea that helped with the eventual delivery of a milestone transport project. But what do you think of the new branding. Quite traditional, wouldn’t you say?

“They’ve fallen back in with the London Underground brand look and feel which dates back to Edward Johnston who designed the font. I have to say I’m a fan of all that. As an identity for a transport system it works really well and it’s part of London’s fabric.”

I suppose it does get really confusing when there are too many different brands within a single municipal transport system.

“I couldn’t agree more. I’m old enough to remember when the trains were all branded as British Rail and it looked fantastic. I’m a fan of that too.”

So you’ve made your mark on the development of London transport infrastructure history.

“Yes, I’ve seen pictures of engineers against the background of these giant Crossrail tunnels which are really spectacular. It’s one of the biggest engineering feats in London for hundreds of years - that and the Channel tunnel extension to Kings Cross. Sometimes you can even see my logo in there!”

And what do you think of the name ‘Elizabeth Line’?

“Well, London is absolutely rammed with roads, streets, parks and transport infrastructure named after royalty. So it’s not really a surprise.”

Do you think we’ll get used to it?

“I’m sure it will soon be known as the Liz (laughs). Will you be taking the Liz down to Heathrow?”

Danny SomekhComment