Tuesday 20 September 2016

British Rail Corporate Identity Manual

Many of you may be aware of this successful Kickstarter project - a high specification reproduction of the iconic British Rail Corporate Identity Manual. It has been widely profiled in many design magazines, blogs etc, even making an appearance on BBC news!

The book is the brainchild and passion of Wallace Henning, who first read about the Manual around seven years ago, which in turn lead to his dedicating his MA to creating an identity for a renationalised transport network and also began collecting British Rail ephemera.
Image showing the original Manual
The foreword is by Michael C Place, creative director and founder of Build. The introduction is written by Tony Howard, former head of design at British Rail, now managing director of Transport Design Consultancy. There is an essay from James Greenfield, creative director of Koto together with an essay from Dr Paul Rennie, writer and Context Subject Leader at Central Saint Martins. There is also an interview with Gerry Barney, designer of the British Rail double arrow symbol.
Image showing pre-production copy of the new book
The publication is now in the production phase, so I thought I'd write a little about the production and the selection of the paper
The book itself is 310x247mm, section sewn and casebound, covered in a white bookcloth with 472 pages and five 'gatefold' spreads, with the whole production weighing just under 2 kilos! The pages are all printed offset litho, with the original pages reproduced in CMYK and the additional pages printed in two spot colours.
When I was first briefed about the project, the material that was used for the original book was described as a 'hard calendered' smooth white cartridge paper. This would have been commonly used for guidelines as it is more robust than a coated paper and for the reproduction, mainly illustrations, this paper would give the best result.
...now it's important to remember that this book is a "high specification facsimile" not trying to reproduce an exact copy, so a paper that was sympathetic to the original was important, but not necessarily an exact match.
A wide range of quite different papers were considered for the project, but the one that Wallace felt had the right 'feel' for the project was Lessebo Design Smooth White in 130gsm. The Lessebo Mill is located in remote area of southern Sweden called SmÃ¥land. The mill is named after the town in which the mill is situated (Lessebo) and is surrounded by a rugged terrain full of boulders and dense forests between large shallow lakes. Bruk is the Swedish word for mill, hence Lessebo Bruk.

Founded in the middle of the 17th century as an iron mill, it was granted permission by the local government to produce paper in 1693. It should go without saying that all paper was made by hand at this point in time and it wasn't until the 19th century that paper machines were invented. It is also worth noting that the mill still has a Handmade Paper studio ...where I have actually made paper!

 Lessebo Bruk is a mill with complete focus on forest based products with a modern product mix of graphical papers, dissolving cellulose and energy - in fact their power plant heats the town swimming pool as well as a great many of the houses in the town!

The paper was manufactured during the summer and the below picture shows the pallets and pallets of paper at the printer.
Print is being handled by Jon Arnold at JDA Graphics and it is printed on a Komori, offset litho, B1 format HUV press. The advantage of HUV is that the ink is cured at the end of the press, without the need for 'sealing' or 'coating' the paper - certainly a significant advantage in terms of speed of turnaround for finishing. Here is the paper on press...
Another important factor as you can see from the image above, the sheets have 16pp to view (32pp per sheet). An important factor of book production (and arguably for the production of all printed literature) is that the 'grain direction' of the paper runs from the head to the foot of the book (i.e. parallel to the spine). This is important because of the way the paper feels and 'rolls' and the way the text flops and lays open. The grain direction refers to the way the fibres lie in the direction of the paper machine and is one of the most important physical characteristics of a paper. The paper for this project had to be ordered as 'short grain' so when the sheets are folded into sections, the direction of the grain will run parallel to the spine.

All the sections are now printed and on their way to the bindery ...I can't wait to see the finished copy.

The good news is that there are still copies available to buy - over and above the copies which are already committed to those who supported the Kickstarter campaign. You can still pre-order copies at a cost of just £60. You can read more about the project and pre-order here:

Posted by Justin Hobson 20.09.2016


  1. Really loving your blog - ecstatic about all these different paper/finishing inspiration!

  2. Need to document all this into a book!


Thanks for your comment! If I like it, I'll add it on. Cheers J