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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

No serifs please

The launch of the new Google corporate imprint which replaces the serif laden font with 'sans serif' recalls changes to Blackpool's transport styling (and restyling).

In 1954 a new Manager, Joe Franklin, took an immediate dislike to the definitely ornate fleet numbers adorning nearly two hundred buses - as well as the sweeps, swirls and other green trim on both trams and buses. An early decision to replace the expensive fleet number transfers of the type introduced in the 1920s with a cleaner look brought in 'gill sans' font. The 'sans' bit meant 'without' added edging on numerals. The bus fleet would also be transformed by the gradual removal of green from the overall livery - ending up unfortunately with a bland and unattractive all-cream paint job. Below : PD2 Number 344 displays its sans serif fleet numerals when almost new at the Bispham Tram Depot terminus of another Blackpool service to 'Hospital' - in the late 1950s.

The trams similarly were to see much of the flourish of the previous Manager - wholly removed - and fleet numerals appearing in the new 'gill sans' font on the front of cars. Below : somewhat worn and definitely less than 'pristine' Brush car 625 (288) now fortunately preserved with the FHLT collection in Fleetwood - shows off its inelegant fleet number (and the obtrusive roof advertising disfigurement). Definitely not politically correct these days although I did briefly try 'Embassy'!

Blackpool Transport's corporate emblem which had minor variants since its introduction in 1986 when the 'arms length' but still Council owned company was formed - has had a makeover under the current Management. The fleet livery of course has undergone several changes with questionable taste on the part of the trams - and distinctive but unfriendly styling on the bus fleet. A more impressive 'look' appeared with the new Mercedes 'Palladium' branded single deck buses now operating Service 5 - complete with 'silvered' logo. But serifs are definitely out. Obviously Google's corporate design team took a leaf out of Blackpool Transport's book when coming up with their latest branding !

What a difference a 'Palladium' makes - one of the ten examples currently in service complete with silvered fleet numerals and logo to ensure a holistic design. Above - on its way to the 'Hospital' August 2015 Left : closeup of the front styling at the official launch. Images : John Woodman

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