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Issue 2 : 1st April 2009

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The map is the brand

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A rail network map isn't just about how to get from A to B. A rail network map is about the identity of the business or organisation running services on those lines. It's what makes one operator distinct from more>

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Unfortunately Manchesters bid for 3b from the Transport Innovation Fund got the thumbs down from voters in the recent referendum.

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The map accompanying all the text-based promotional literature wasn't going to inspire anyone. GMPTE missed an opportunity to inspire and excite with this dull map. New lines are just drawn in existing gaps. The key is too complex, there are too many captions and the type too small. A colon in the title doesn't help its professionalism either.

Shows England and Wales from a Scottish perspective. Best printed out and viewed at an angle as though you are looking south from Scotland.

This fabulous map which appears in the Network Rail website is extremely clever. There are no credits, so the designer will go unrecognised. It can only show the main user for each line, but the grid of circles works extremely well adding style and a fairly accurate geographical perspective.

Shows Train Operating Company and Open Access Operator routes as at the December 2008 timetable changes.

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The map is the brand

A rail network map isn't just about how to get from A to B. A rail network map is about the identity of the business or organisation running services on those lines. It's what makes one operator distinct from another, it's what gives different systems their individual identity.

We can pontificate that the brand is about values, visions, focus and relationships. But on the street it boils down to issues like punctuality, cleanliness, value and comfort. And all of those values could apply to any provider of transport services. Corporate branding as realised in symbols, logos and colour schemes may provide identity and recognition - but ultimately is it just wallpaper?

Only the map can ever present the individuality of the brand in a graphic form and so should be promoted positively as a major component in the corporate identity. So customers and staff alike can rally around it.

For train operating companies and other organisations the route is everything. It is the element that needs thought and time and craft to fashion into a true icon. Users deserve a beautiful map.