How can design inspire a renaissance of rail?

The story of the UK’s trains is well known: overcrowded, delayed, unreliable.


Visual Brand Identity & Language


Travel and Public Services


First Group



First Group, who operate the historic rail line running from London to the West of England, have an ambitious goal: to recapture the romance of rail.

They decided to rename the service GWR. It’s a name synonymous with the magic and majesty of rail’s steam past; an era where rail invoked delight, not disappointment.

OnDesign Ep.3: Mark Taylor

We talked with independent brand counsel Mark Taylor about the relaunch of GWR, as well as his work branding a community distillery on the Isle of Harris.


Along with the name change, a brand identity system was needed that would evoke the right kind of associations from rail’s past: that of endless possibilities, not fusty trains and ‘leaves on the line’.

We conducted in-depth consumer insight workshops which got under the skin of consumers’ relationship with rail and its history, appraised what GWR meant to consumers in the modern day, and unpicked the role of design in the consumer experience of rail travel.

The output guided the team with strategic insight on how to strike the delicate balance between heritage and contemporary relevance, as well as providing detailed executional feedback guiding the rollout of the branding on everything from timetables and ticket kiosks to the on-train brand experience.

D&AD Award Winner 2016


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