Holding on to what I am, pretending I’m a Supertram

A Totally Objective Ranking of British Public Transport System Logos

Robin Wilde
28 min readJan 25, 2022

This wasn’t the most original idea for what is rapidly snowballing into a regular feature, but sometimes the most straightforward concepts are the good ones.

Britain’s public transport is a glorious patchwork of different modes and providers, and as a result throws up a wide range of system logos from the straight-laced to the very out there. While I’m sure there’ll be some commentary along the way, we’re less fussed about routes and rolling stock than about the truly important thing — how cool is the logo?

Criteria for inclusion were a little bit less clear than council logos or university logos. Partly this is a challenge of trying to produce a list long enough to be interesting, and partly that if I was to go through every single bus route in the country I’d swiftly go mad and you’d swiftly get bored, since so many of them use almost identical branding.

Instead I’ve adopted a few fairly straightforward rules:

  • It must be for public transport — that is, a service available to ride from one location to another, on a pre-arranged route and/or schedule, for anyone who can pay the fare — so no taxis or ride sharing, or public scooter or bike hire schemes.
  • It must have a recognisable logo — this has ruled out a great many of the country’s wonderful community transport schemes, who are doing a laudable public good, but sadly including them would have meant rehashing a lot of my council logo comments. Sorry guys.
  • It must be there for functional transport, rather than novelty or leisure — so no cruise lines, theme park monorails, steam railways or bus tour companies. Of course, you can and should use public transport for leisure (I highly recommend the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and Edinburgh) but that can’t be its only purpose.

An addendum to these rules also includes public transport governance bodies, for the official reason that they often have distinct logos and play a key role in the provision of transport, and also for the unofficial reason that I needed to get the numbers up.

My admittedly cursory searching yielded 79 candidates for the list, but public transport fans being who they are, I’m sure there’ll be some I missed. Emails to the usual address, but please try to not use all caps.

Logos were ranked using the same custom tool I built for University logos — a straight 1v1 comparison of all possible combinations with a snap judgment between the two, yielding a table of results containing the crowd wisdom of my fatigue-addled brain.

Without further ado, all aboard!

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss this article or to hire me for your graphic design needs, my website can be found at robinwilde.me and my email address is robin@robinwilde.me.

79. South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority

I’m sure it’s fun to stay at the SYMCA, but this is the sort of logo that emerges from having absolutely no money to work with. I can’t exactly blame them, since the Government hasn’t been eager to hand over powers or cash, but I can’t lie to myself and pretend the combination of system font, dull colours and a weird relationship to the rules of composition is a good one.

78. Newport Bus

Strangely compelling, mostly because it took me from first starting to gather logos to almost hitting publish before I realised this was a very stylised “N” and “B”. Prior to that I was prepared to admit defeat after scrolling through several websites trying to discern what it might have to do with the Transporter Bridge or the Wave sculpture. In the sense of forcing me to examine Newport’s tourist attractions more closely it is a success. In terms of comprehensible design it is not.

77. Grand Central

A familiar one to me, since its low-cost open-access journeys from Bradford are some of the cheapest ways to get from Sheffield to London. It’s the first on this list in a classic of train operating company design — aping the pre-nationalisation branding after which the companies were all subsumed into British Rail.

However, for various reasons it comes across as a rather cheap and tawdry version of that aesthetic. The ugly and very basic gradients on the wings stick out a mile off, and the jammed-in Arriva logo feels thoughtless — was there really no flexibility in the brand guidelines to site it centrally, in a smaller, similarly art deco font?

Low-cost is one thing, but I don’t feel like this logo is treating the brand it represents with a lot of respect, and that’s enough to offset a not-terrible concept.

76. Enterprise

You might not be familiar with the Enterprise service if you’re not from Northern Ireland or a regular visitor from the Republic, but it’s the joint North-South rail service connecting Belfast to Dublin. I’ve taken it, and while it suffers from every other problem of Northern Irish public infrastructure (a flurry of post-GFA investment followed by drought which gives central Belfast a weird aesthetic sense of stepping into the Blair era) it’s cheap and reasonably speedy.

In keeping with that theme, however, the logo is a perfect example of late-90s random squiggle which might be forgivable on its own but when paired with a grey-maroon-purple colour scheme just comes across as a murky smear.

75. Merseyrail

I actually really like Merseyrail, and if you’re ever in Merseyside I highly recommend getting the train up to Formby and spending an afternoon at what is quite possibly my favourite British beach.

Now that I’ve placated any Liverpudlians reading this, I’m sorry but you really, really, need to get them to ditch the dire handwriting font under the main mark. It looks like a work of digital graffiti, as though there’s some profane double entendre I’m missing.

One could argue it’s not really part of the logo, but using the adjudicating rule of “what do they use on the official website” I’m afraid it has to rank.

Leaving that aside would take it from very bad to merely a bit dated — the chunky 1980s-style lettering and the harsh black with yellow highlights work better on the actual rolling stock and stations than they do in abstract, but I’m afraid that in this list, purity counts.

74. c2c

This train operator runs services exclusively between London and Southend from Fenchurch Street station, which would explain why I’d never previously heard of them. Fans of my previous work will know I loathe and despise the font Lato, both for its overused and for its inconsistent and melty rounding on corners, and everything wrong with it is on strong display here, along with a garish hot pink colour scheme which belies the boring design of the actual mark.

In a real life example of the Drake Hotling Bling Meme, I do, however, love and rely on the entirely unrelated font Lota. So be careful when designing my birthday cards.

73. Blackpool Transport

Blackpool is famously one of the few British cities with a light rail system (in this case running to Fleetwood) which is starting to seem odd since in major US cities such a line is quickly becoming a staple. As a fairly unique transport operator in a place associated with fun, then, it’s a bit of a shame there’s not much to excite about this design. The famous Tower being daubed in dull grey is not optimal, and while the coloured stripe is clearly going for a beachfront look, I’m not sure the implication of blood on the sand that the red gives it is helping (I know it’s meant to be red and yellow for Lancashire — but still).

72. Lothian Buses

Another example of Lato crime — don’t think I don’t see you, the rounded corners on the Ss give it away. The tartan visual pun with the crossing route lines isn’t a bad idea, but it’s another design let down by some weird colour choices — brown is something you have to be very confident in, and a sort of gritty used teabag brown is not that.

71. Reading Buses

Britain’s largest town (and with a population of almost 200,000 it really ought to be a city) is not a bad place I’m sure, but since that’s the case, it might want to sell itself a little more boldly. There’s not much wrong with the execution here but the dull colours and lack of visual creativity do leave it feeling very timid.

70. Megabus

Oh how I loathe the Megabus man, who seems to have undergone a bit of de-aging and chibification since I last checked, which has had the effect of turning him from a recognisable caricature of a benevolent proletarian into a staring bow-tied garden gnome.

It was one of the happiest moments of adulthood when I finally started earning enough money that I would never again need to ride the Megabus and see this rotund grasping ice cream man slide into my bleary vision at 1am at Meadowhall bus station. No more would I have to try and connect to the frankly unusable Wi-fi from the back middle seat as a coachload of cricket fans returning from Headingley kept me awake all night with their celebrations. There would never again be a panic about whether the unsmiling guards at the US Embassy would let me in at one minute past my appointment time after this jaundiced trickster figure lied about the projected travel time.

Next time you fancy paying £4.50 to get to London, consider chipping in an extra quid towards hiring a designer to slay the Megabus man, destroy his works, and drive him out of my dark nightmares forever.

A quick addendum, since they got in touch about it: Megabus have apparently since updated their branding and the version I got was from the US Megabus website, which serves me right for moving overseas. Anyway, here’s their new branding, which I’m sure we can all agree is fine:

69. Eurostar

Faux-metal logos feature surprisingly often in transport design and I think it’s an effort to communicate futuristic technology while also harking back to chrome livery on old-fashioned railways. In this case, the word mark is better than the twirly E, which looks all too much like a questing tongue for comfort. All the better for slurping its way down the tunnel to lick the shores of France.

68. Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

Did you know this is the longest guided busway in the world? If you’re not familiar with the concept it’s basically train tracks for buses, a segregated line on which buses can run to avoid traffic and increase regularity, but without the limitations that rail vehicles have in terms of ability to operating among road traffic. Quite a nifty idea, and if you want to go from Cambridge to Huntingdon, you’re in luck.

You’ll notice I’m not talking about the logo much and that’s because despite the slightly sci-fi concept it’s not actually much to write home about. Doesn’t communicate that it’s something beyond a normal bus route, which from an advertising perspective isn’t great, and green and blue is not a colour combination that works as well as the frequency with which it’s used in design work would suggest.

67. Edinburgh Trams

Essentially identical to the Lothian Buses logo, so there’s not much more to add other than that ditching brown is a good start, but not enough to boost it much higher.

66. Ulsterbus

In fairness, this is on the verge of being replaced along with all the other Translink branding, but I can’t currently find the new one so this has to face the music for now. It’s not awful or anything, but it does suffer from being very cramped in both the text tracking and the old Translink swooshes being rammed up against the words. The blue is also doing little for me, and I suspect that will make it into the new brand.

65. High Speed 1

Shearing a logo forward can be a cheap way of imparting a sense of motion to it, but did nobody in the process stop and think “maybe we have dialled it up too high”? I was going to give it a pass because it’s our only high speed rail for now, but actually that probably means it’s marginally harming the prospects of us getting more, and for that reason it must be condemned.

64. Heathrow Express

I’m not wild on faux-chrome logos at the best of times, because they’re harder to adapt to different use cases and also they look like car bonnet ornaments, but especially when they resemble two planes smashing into one another, which is probably not the impression one wishes to bring across when conveying passengers at very high cost per mile to the airport.

63. Crosscountry

CrossCountry’s branding is not dreadful, but it suffers from being quite dated, specifically somewhere around the turn of the 2010s with that rounded angular font. The choice of grey as a supporting colour for the basically nice red is a missed opportunity too.

62. HullTrains

Scribble hearts have a long history, not much of it to do with Hull. Indeed hearts are low down the list of emotions you might wish to express after a very cheap 5am train journey to London. Also it reminds me of the BNP logo, which while not HullTrains’ fault is quite unfortunate.

61. Nottingham Express Transit

Wins some plaudits for being quite a cool tram system, loses them because the kerning between the letters hurts me. The E is too far over and I can’t stop noticing it. Fix this please!

60. Nottingham City Transport

Stacking text closely is a noble ambition, but any letters with descenders suffer in the attempt. I think they have tried to merge them with bits of “transport” so it doesn’t stick out too badly, but it hasn’t worked. I find the best approach is to capitalise the upper line to keep the height consistent.

59. Warrington’s Own Buses

Annoyingly they added an apostrophe-triangle, so I can’t make the obvious “they certainly do” punlet. However, I can point out that the combination of shiny wolf and blue triangles does remind me strongly of the Retro Wave text you’ll have seen around the internet for the last few years. I can therefore suggest that Warrington’s Own Buses should get a lot more neon on board.

58. Chiltern Railways

Choice of colours lifted directly from the Conservative Party, and I am hoping that one day Arriva learns to dial down its subtitles — that’s way too large to not draw the eye from the main design. Which may be their intention, but if so it’s a bad intention.

57. Ipswich Buses

They really wanted this one to be in the shape of a bus, and mission accomplished I suppose, although I think it could really do without the banal slogan.

56. Great Northern

This name always struck me as quite misleading considering it describes a route that only goes as far north as Peterborough and King’s Lynn. True enough, they’re North of London, but this confusion might be why they’ve had to go for a generic sticky label look.

55. Greater Anglia

A rather ambitious name for a company whose main purpose is to help you trundle around Norfolk, but it’s not terribly objectionable, with the usual caveat about red and grey not mixing well.

54. Stansted Express

Exactly the same as Greater Anglia, only the two-deck stacking of the text works better so it gets to sit on top.

53. Island Line

A sub-brand of South Western serving the Isle of Wight, which I like because islands tend not to have railways and that’s a tragedy. The mark suffers from its rounded corners and there’s something a bit off and wonky about the right-hand edge of the text not lining up.

52. South Western

Exactly the same, only ranked one place higher because the layout works slightly better (albeit still feels a bit wonky).

51. London Northwestern

This is the same company as West Midlands Railway but they use a different brand outside of the West Midlands conurbation, which seems inefficient to me. I’ve ridden with them precisely once when I took a very convoluted route to the airport to avoid paying for the Gatwick Express, and I can’t say they really made a lasting impression. Their main mark has that frustrating quality of looking as though it’s meant to be an abstract representation of something, but I can’t figure out what. I can see the N and the W, but where’s the L?

50. South Eastern

Not a lot to say here other than that the chunky rounded serifs on this font look like suction cups. The U is just an N doing a handstand and clinging to the floor by his head. It’s boring sitting around in a logo so I guess learning circus skills passes the time, but if I were a letter in a word mark I’d organise with my fellows to rearrange ourselves into rude anagrams. I can see at least “testes” and “anuses” in there.

49. ScotRail

Rather pointless subtitle aside, I quite like ScotRail’s halftone dots, which help impart a sense of motion and could work quite well without the title as the basis for livery or poster background masks.

48. National Express

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed travelling by National Express, mainly because it tends to offer as little comfort and speed as Megabus but significantly more expensive. The logo’s inoffensive though, which puts it miles ahead.

47. Caledonian Sleeper

I regret never getting the chance to ride the Sleeper, but I never lived far enough from London that overnight travel was justified. I think this branding is quite recent and the negative space and thistley serifs on the Es are a nice touch. The stag tapering off sits wrong with me somehow, though, as though he’s gradually fading out of existence.

46. Cardiff Bus

Nothing groundbreaking going on here but we stan a municipalised transport king.

45. Emirates Air Line

This just about counts for the purposes of this list — if you’re not familiar it’s the pointless cablecar thing in the Docklands that nobody ever uses. If you are the one person keeping it afloat with your daily commute, please get in touch so you can be studied.

Logo-wise, it’s not great considering the easy lay-up of the TFL roundel — the need to shoehorn in the Emirates logo for sponsor-stroking reasons has resulted in the whole thing looking too busy, and laid out like one of those Amazon Dash buttons you used to get if you needed a cablecar by same-day delivery.

44. Northern

Looks like a simplified sad face, which is apt since that’s what you’ll look like when you signed up to an hour and a half of trundling through Marple on rolling stock from the Thatcher premiership rather than paying the extra three quid for the TPE service from Manchester to Sheffield.

It’s otherwise okay. I guess it’s an “N” and also a train tunnel.

43. West Midlands Metro

The West Midlands animal jaws make their first appearance, with a very gunmetal and dull colour scheme adorning what should be an exciting thing — a light rail system in one of the country’s biggest city regions!

42. Southern

Another take on pre-nationalisation livery, this time simplified and with a subtle bit of faux-3D in the form of the supporting shadow. It’s one of the less offensive ways I’ve seen it done.

41. Sheffield Supertram

Sheffield’s Supertram is the one thing we have over Leeds so we have to cling to it with all our might, but it’s hard to deny the logo is extremely 2000s — look at all those optimistic millennial angles! The old Stagecoach logo wasn’t great for the livery, which remains frustratingly primary-coloured and I’m convinced it (along with the relatively expensive fares) is behind the trams not being as big a point of pride for Sheffield as they should warrant.

40. First Bus

One of the country’s major bus operators with a stranglehold on a huge proportion of services, First were never my favourite way to get to/from work, but the concept of the roads crossing to form the F in their logo isn’t bad.

39. Go Ahead

Apparently one of the bigger bus operators which surprised me, since I’d never previously heard of them. Upon checking it looks like they mainly operate in the South which probably explains why. Their logo is not contributing since you literally wouldn’t look twice if it passed you on the side of a bus.

38. Crossrail/Elizabeth Line

Better than the Air Line since it uses the actual roundel design, but still lower down than that design warrants because no public transport system has ever announced itself to the world with vibrant lavender and not had the piss taken out of it. The name change to the Elizabeth Line is annoying for a couple of reasons (it’s not a Tube line so the “line” formulation is weird anyway, there’s already the Jubilee Line to celebrate the monarch, and there’s a good chance she’ll be dead before the thing actually opens) but mainly because it’s strangled the potentially good idea of Crossrail having its own identity, reducing my options for this list.

37. Network Rail

It might just be the Amtrak logo if someone stood on it but there’s something vaguely comforting about the bright contrast of seeing this and knowing you’re home to your public transport method of choice. Very early 2000s energy in jamming the two words together to create a perceived sense of urgency, though (see also the gratuitous italics). These days I’d leave the text more solid and chunky and let the one-point perspective rails do the talking on the motion front.

36. Croydon Trams

Fair play, you won’t miss the trams coming since they’re as vibrant as one could hope for, but I’m afraid that green and blue isn’t a nice combination in the new Spotify branding, it isn’t nice in council logos, and it isn’t nice here.

35. Manchester Metrolink

It upsets me upon looking closely to learn that the Metrolink font is not in fact grey but a dark shade of brown, although the fact I’ve ridden it dozens of times without noticing implies it’s not a massive problem. I’m a sucker for a pointillist logo (a lot of them came up in the University rankings) and it’s deployed well enough here, although there’s a sad lack of brand integration with Manchester’s other public transport which I hope they resolve.

34. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

Fair play, they weren’t messing about when they decided this needed an injection of implied motion, and have accordingly given it the extra speed power-up box from Sonic the Hedgehog. I think they might be the last public body to acknowledge the old Strathclyde, which was until the mid-1990s local government reorganisation the country’s largest council area and which had a great logo. The orange is iconic and crops up again in the Subway branding.

33. Gatwick Express

This train’s a scam if you’re trying to get to Gatwick, so you shouldn’t be seeing it up close and personal unless you dislike having money or you’re one of those people who cuts it infuriatingly fine in getting to the airport. Just get a Southern or Thameslink train to Brighton instead. Logo-wise, though, it’s fine — nice use of negative space to allow the remainder of the X to imply directness and speed.

32. West Midlands Railway

The West Midlands Metro “jaws of death” logo is not bad in that it manages to conceal the “W” and “M” within itself fairly well, and as this example shows can adapt itself to sub-brands without too much difficulty.

31. Western Ferries

The fun loop design is probably not how you would actually want the route of your ferry to be described, but fair play for boldness on the colour scheme.

30. Caledonian MacBrayne

A classic brand, its undeniable recognisability possibly comes more from its staying power (it was founded in 1851) more than being above and beyond in its brilliance. Still, it’s a pleasingly understated design and the lion rampant is a Scottish classic.

29. Lumo

Probably the newest operator on this list, Lumo is offering discount fares between Edinburgh and London, which is much needed so more power to them. On the branding front, it’s nice to look at but I’m a bit confused about what the imagery is up to — it could be a degree sign or a hovering light or something about flight, but it’s not relevant to any of those. I’m sure an overly cheerful communications grad on not enough money is going to tweet me about it.

28. Stena Line

There certainly are a lot of lines here I suppose. The S flag is very striking when you’re watching it loom over you on the Stranraer to Belfast ferry at five in the morning, so bonus points for deployment. Adding a literal line to the design is perhaps a bit obvious.

27. HS2

Disappointingly plain for what is a really cool bit of infrastructure if the NIMBYs don’t kill it — but the imagery of the H as a widening set of rails is a clever nod to its goal of improving capacity. YOU HEAR THAT? CAPACITY! NOT SPEED! CAPACITY!

26. Orkney Ferries

Let down by its awkward shoehorning in of the name, the imagery here is cool, both for its intended purpose and because it looks like a friendly music note. “Come to Orkney” it says. “We might not have any trees, but at least a few people here can play you a tune”.

25. Merseytravel

Since they clearly do have capacity for basically decent design work, I think it’s a shame they haven’t just shoveled this branding over to Merseyrail — but for what it is, it’s pretty good. I like the slightly softer take on what would otherwise be a very geometric “tech” font.

24. TFL

Apparently so unremarkable I missed it the first time round. Kind of a shame they’ve decoupled the text from the roundel which isn’t really in keeping with the various service brands, but it’s still quite nice and authoritative. I would kick the anodyne slogan in the head, though.

23. Arriva

Arriva operated local buses where I grew up and yet it wasn’t until compiling this list that I noticed the logo is composed of two concentric rings separated by negative space. I suppose that’s relatively clever as a bit of artworking, but I’m not sure what it’s meant to signify, so I’m afraid it goes no higher.

22. Belfast Glider

A bus rapid transit system which has really embraced the “pretend you’re a tram” aspect of that designation, which is a shame because while buses are a great way to travel, it comes across as a bit shamefaced about not being good enough. Be confident, Glider, your logo is classy! I’m a big fan of the geometric look.

21. TFL Rail

A weird one this, as it’s just a holding brand being used for commuter rail until Crossrail officially opens, at which point it will be renamed the Elizabeth Line. Consequently there’s not a while lot of creativity going on here, but deploying the quite good TFL branding straight down the line doesn’t hurt.

20. East Midlands Railway

They’re lucky this list went up after their shades of purple rebrand, because the old branding was horrible. Still, it’s relatively classy and does a light nod to pre-nationalisation livery without going too overblown. The negative space is a nice way of creating depth and the shades of purple mutually support one another quite well.

19. Transpennine Express

Verging on gaudy with that combination of blue and purple, but the pointy star device deploys well on the rolling stock so I’m happy to forgive it — even if my main associations with TPE are hauling myself aboard the 7:08am service to Manchester during a brief period working in the city which I never want to repeat.

18. London Overground

Like the Underground, but the opposite! The orange and blue contrast nicely although I’ve always wondered how it works out for colour-blind people that the orange and the Underground red are fairly similar.

17. Glasgow Subway

Glasgow’s Clockwork Orange is delightful and, as Glaswegians will never fail to point out, is one of the world’s oldest sub-surface rapid transport systems, behind the London Underground and the Budapest Metro. Having ridden all three, the Subway is the cutest, but loses points for having not been expanded in a way that would make it more than a fun novelty for anyone not living close in to the city.

The branding is understated and the colour combination works nicely, although I think it could benefit from losing the central “S” and letting the mark speak for itself.

16. Thameslink

Probably the suburban rail network I used most despite never living in London, and I always felt slightly fancy while riding it because of the clean and tasteful branding with a splash of colour.

15. Docklands Light Railway

Three letter acronyms can be hit or miss as names — the human tendency to remember short lists makes them memorable, but they aren’t always well understood. So the DLR being fun to both say and ride helps an awful lot. Building on the already excellent TFL roundel it’s a quality combination of colours which helps propel it to near the top of the list.

14. West Yorkshire Metro

A filthy lie (Leeds famously is the largest city in Europe without a proper metro system) but this branding for a network of regional buses and suburban heavy rail is admittedly clean and bold and, should they ever get their act together, will adorn a new light rail or underground network very nicely.

13. Avanti West Coast

I’m fairly sure that the three points of the triangle are supposed to represent London, Manchester and Glasgow, the line’s three major destinations (shut up Birmingham) but I could be wrong. I remember this being rolled out seemingly overnight when the old Virgin West Coast contract expired, and it’s certainly an improvement over that — the triangle device is used to good effect on train livery and station branding as well, so it’s nice and versatile.

12. Great Western Railway

A simplified modernisation of an old pre-nationalisation brand, this one’s been done rather tastefully. The dark green is quite heritage-y, even though this company is merely aping its predecessor and was in fact founded in 1996 after John Major’s government ruined the railways.

11. South Wales Metro

Much like the West Yorkshire example, this is branding for a network that as yet doesn’t fully exist, but at least this one’s underway and should open in the next couple of years. After which I will be happy to visit and ride around the valleys because South Wales is great and this branding is classy.

10. Translink

Northern Ireland’s transport body has had a very recent update and gone over to very bright sub-brands like this mint green or a hot pink for Ulsterbus services. Those are nice on a website although I have some concerns about their ability to

9. P&O Ferries

They’ve flattened this and gone for a more geometric look in recent years, and the ligature between the & and the O helps balance the mark where a full-sized ampersand might have drawn too much attention to itself.

8. Transport for Wales

The newly nationalised Welsh train operator is going hard on the municipal transport roundel look (and the dithered T of the main mark is not an uncommon feature in that space either). I like it.

7. Northlink Ferries

Did you know Shetland used to be administered by Norway? They don’t like to go on about it much. Sven here is a very cool bit of imagery and I’m sure he’s even more striking when slapped a hundred feet high on the side of a boat — although I perhaps would have told them that Vikings didn’t wear horns on their helmets. I’m almost certain their social media person has to deal with tedious bores like me pointing that out all the time.

6. Stagecoach

A marked improvement over the old red-blue-yellow logo you can see earlier on this list in the Supertram logo, and one wonders if the switching in of green was to imply a commitment to environmentalism. Whether or not they’re that cynical, it’s easier on the eye, and the nice rounded lettering is a strong addition.

5. Transport for Greater Manchester

I like to think the flowing river effect created by the looping M is a deliberate touch considering the city’s history with industrial canals, but it could also be a road, rails, etc., which is a nice nod to multimodal transport. The font choice is a little bit anemic, but it’s not a deal breaker.

4. National Rail

The only passenger-facing bit of our rail infrastructure to still use the old British Rail Double Arrow logo designed by Gerry Barney in the 1960s and still the visual marker most associated with passenger rail. It’s just a really good, simple mark and I’m glad it’s survived privatisation in some form, including still being printed on tickets.


I once applied to be a graphic designer for LNER and they turned me down, so I feel honour bound to swear there hasn’t been any conscious attempt to compensate for that in the ranking!

I do like the LNER zap a lot, and not just because it’s a clever way of injecting motion into a word mark without resorting to italics, but because of the remarkable commitment to consistency throughout its branding. The rapid rebrand they had to achieve from Virgin East Coast could have been done in a very bland, down the line way, so I’m glad they decided to have fun with it.

2. Tyne and Wear Metro

The Tyne and Wear Metro is an underappreciated workhorse of British public transport infrastructure. It’s never in the news, and I’d be willing to bet a lot of first-time visitors to the North East don’t realise its existence before they get there — but for my money it’s one of the best bits of visiting Newcastle and Tyneside, which are already great.

As I’ve been saying throughout this series, a logo announcing itself with confidence and instant recognition is at the heart of what makes it good design, and Metro’s certainly achieves that.

1. London Underground

This feels cheap, like declaring Dairy Milk your favourite chocolate bar or announcing that you appreciate the music of the Beatles. But, dating back to 1908, it’s hard to deny it’s long been, and will probably remain, the best of what UK transport logos have to offer. Both as a highly visible bit of wayfinding and as an integral part of London’s international brand, you won’t find anything more iconic than the Underground roundel.



Robin Wilde

Freelance writer and graphic designer. Once worked in politics.