The Gill Sans was considered a typeface that captured modernity and became instantly popular due to its uncomplicated and rational design. From this growing interest it became the typeface choice for the Church of England, BBC, Penguin books and North Eastern Railways. The typeface was dominantly used within the public services.
Cecil Dandridge commissioned Gill Sans for the North Eastern Railways identity. The typeface was used on all printed material as well as train station furniture and decor. By adopting Gill Sans as the only typeface that North Eastern Railways used it created a solid corporate identity that was absent before. By having a unified appearance it suggested that the company was reliable, consistent and a singular company rather than multiple railway groups before its nationalisation.
This overall voice, gave North Easter Railway a strong sense that it was a powerful corporation. This undertaking of one typeface was a significant step forward. By rejecting the previous Victorian style and hand painted typefaces in favor of machine set type. The North Eastern Railway made a bold statement to its public that through standardization it was part of a new technological and social era.
The machine inspired esthetic removed the concept of individual craftsman and projected the ideas of unity and collaboration. Mass production was seen as a pathway for social progress. The concept that products could be produced cheaper and quicker would mean that anyone, from any background could purchase the same items. This removal of high priced and rare products would break down the barriers between the social classes. This break down meant that society would eventually become standardised to an extent, making society more equal and united. This process of unifying was similar to the way in which many large companies were moving towards one identity, furthermore meaning that the masses were also becoming a powerful voice too.
During this period the 1920’s were also known as the “roaring twenties” due to the persistent growth in economy along side the positive changes in culture and lifestyle. Society was moving forward and the transport systems had to keep up. The industrial industry was at an all time high and the sales of cars and consumer goods were on the increase. Cities were becoming places where people wanted to live and work. The term “Metropolitan Centre” was becoming increasingly popular for modernised cities. The popularity of these cities was increasing with the ease of access. The railway connections between cities and being able to travel large distances in a short space of time were predominant reasons for their attractiveness to travellers. These fast railway systems were considered the height of modernity. The ideas of modernism were beginning to filter through to the population and many saw technology as the answer to fulfil these modern ideologies.
The North Eastern Railway had a reputation for being pioneers of architecture and design. They were one of the first railways to use electricity throughout their train system. These advancements in technology helped North Eastern Railway become the most innovative transport company across England. The better trains meant better service gaining them more interest as well as customers.
The printed materials for North Eastern Railway were machine set type, which created a consistent and unified design in each piece as well as throughout the company. The typeface was not the only form of standardization. Due to the complexity of the railway system there was a need for an understandable and readable timetable. Standardization was a system that echoed the ideas surrounding modernity. The railway was a place that standardization affected the individual constantly. The importance of understanding the complicated train timetable was linked to the understanding of how modernity and the city as a machine worked. These timetables changed the way society moved around along with their relationship with the environment they travelled in.
Railway timetables and the importance of train times began during the 1840’s when the Great Western train company standardized local times to what they called “Railway Time” this time system was eventually synchronized with Greenwich meantime.
The train timetable, the Railway time, as well as the arrival and departures of the trains were becoming a significant part of society. The public were centering their daily activities around the railway. This focus on the time caused many to find the pace of modern life becoming a strain. The dictation to via the railway system caused members of society to suffer from the anxiety of missing trains or being late to appointments. This concern of railways did not stop there; using the railway was subjected to worries surround personal safety. Many saw the train compartments as an element of privacy in their journey while others saw the separated carriages, which allowed men and woman to mix as a place were criminal or immoral behavior could occur.
Train carriages and stations were one of the first places where people from various social classes could mix together. Therefore this added to this underlying anxiety of whom you may have been sharing a carriage with. These communal areas allowed social classes to experience what kind of person lived on the other side of the social barrier.
Trains allowed people to move around a lot more. The train lines changed from a transport system for moving goods around the country to an infrastructure that would cater for commuters as well as those wishing to travel for leisure.The city with its newfound metropolitan status was drawing a new kind of worker in.
The industrialisation allowed machines to produce mass products rather than a factory full of works. The job roles in the city were changing; white-collar clerical employment was vastly over taking the interest in skilled labor profession. This in turn meant the role of the railway was also changing. Fewer goods were being transferred around Britain via train allowing the space to be used as a commuter transport. The concept of living outside London in suburbia and traveling into London on a daily basis was becoming vastly popular.
Traveling for leisure was also rising as the economy was growing the public was starting to have a disposable income, which could be spent on product or holidays. Day trips to the seaside were increasingly common via the railway. The changing role of the railway meant that it had to appeal to the masses. Marketing the North Eastern Railway as a modern way to travel allowed them to change the public’s perception of the purpose of the railway.