How the old graphic standards are making a comeback

Sometimes, the greatest designs are the simplest yet most effective. This is especially true with the Design Research Unit’s graphics for British Rail in 1966. Most of their design language is still in use, though diluted by the rail franchisee’s corporate images. In the last two years, The Cooperative have revived their 1968 clover leaf logo, with a modern twist (using the Avenir typeface family instead of Helvetica). In the US of A, there is a publisher who has committed to print the old graphic standards, in hardback book form.

Known as Graphic Standards, the publishers have decided to reprint (for collectors and design geeks like us at Dreamkatcha) the design manuals of key US government departments. Lately, they have began a Kickstarter scheme to fund the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency design manual. At this time of writing, they have raised $134,694 (£103,938.58) with 18 days to go to reach their $150,000 target. The project has at this moment 1,569 backers.

Graphic Standards also have for sale reprints of the New York Subway design manual from 1970. In hardback bound form, this will set you back $54.95 (or £42.41, with shipping costs and taxes for purchasers outside the USA). The American Bicentennial Standards Manual is yours for $45.00 (or equivalent plus P&P on these shores), whereas the design manual for NASA is a wallet-busting $79.00.

It is clear why the 1970s graphic standards are winning over designers and typography geeks. Firstly, there is some nostalgia to the older designs. Secondly, there were – and remain – accessible to this day. Which is why The Cooperative have revived the clover leaf logo. This is why, apart from subtle changes, the NatWest logo is the same as it was nearly fifty years ago. Thirdly, many of the 1970s designs – especially the use of sans-serif typefaces – not only look the part in 2017. They transfer well to digital media forms.

Dreamkatcha, 08 May 2017.

Graphic Standards NYC Subway Feature Image by Osugi (via Shutterstock).