One of the nice things – two nice things, really – of working for Metro back in the day was the logo. It’s just a white M on a red circle. You can’t go wrong.

Well; actually you could go wrong, especially on road signs because people wouldn’t ask us for the correct logo, but there you go. It’s on 67 rail station totems and 14,000 bus stops across West Yorkshire, not to mention all of the shelters, buses, timetables, cards, tickets and leaflets.

That’s much greater coverage than the Rail North identity I got to manage all by myself but the Metro symbol was something that every member of staff had an informal responsibility to look out for. It’s all part of our reputation.

Before we got the white-M-on-a-red-circle logo we had something different, commonly referred to as the Metro rose. This was the letters W and Y repeated four times and covering eight compass points, alongside the wordmark ‘Metro’ (in lower case rather all caps as now). Interestingly, it’s the same font now as then; Univers 55.

Mission: Impossible

There being no electronic versions of the logo that I can find, I thought I’d give it a go using my new-found drawering skills with Inkscape.

This should be easy. Over the years I’ve collected, inherited or been gifted a few paper items suitable for scanning. The flattest I found was a memo pad so I duly scanned that it, drew the outline using the centre points as best I could, used guidelines to make the W and Y I’d traced and copied four times as symmetrical as possible… and we’re done.

Then I looked at the other paper versions. Of the six bits of paper, timetables and corporate reports I have, no two have exactly the same logo. What?

Image: versions of the old Metro logo.
Variations on a theme by Metro.

Now: there are variations, I know. Sometimes the Ws and Ys are filled in, sometimes in outline. Sometimes there’s a vertically-centred ‘Metro’, sometimes it’s pushed upwards to allow a second line in a smaller font underneath. But some of the outlined versions I have had the letters too close together, as if someone had traced around the outside of them to get the outline, instead of along the inside edge.

The gap between the rose and the wordmark/s also varied. The character spacing was different as well. There’s also an odd thing, whereby they seem to adopt naval tradition so that the symbol always appears closest to the front of the ship (bus). That means the whole logo has to be reversed on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The kicker was that one of the reports had a page which discussed the corporate identity and included overlapping screen shots of three pages. The front cover of that report used a different typeface to one mentioned inside, squishing it up to fit the space available. Argh!

Then I searched online for photos of buses and stops… and they were inconsistent as well. I know that the corporate style developed over the years; the thin stripes were removed, for example, and the word “Metro” doesn’t appear on the cover of the first timetable book in 1974. But there are limits, after all.

This poses the philosophical question: are the stops, buses and timetables wrong because they don’t follow the corporate identity, or is the corporate identity wrong because it doesn’t follow what’s happening on the street? Is it de jure or de facto?

Without access to the full, printed version of the corporate identity manual I don’t know if some of these variations are legitimate or just plain careless. But since we’re talking about a dead logo and identity I could pretty much do what I want. So I have.

My version here has an outline which can be matched to the fill or be different. The gap between the rose and the wordmark is consistently the height of one of the Ws. The single SVG document has different layers so that the various filled and outlined bits can be switched on or off and coloured separately; the top version uses the corporate colours of Verona Green and Buttermilk.

And relax. Not.

The thing about this logo is that it only lasted five-ish years in this form. When the PTE took greater responsibility for local trains the rose logo was adapted. Two rectangular chain links were bound together; the Metro rose was in one, the British Rail symbol in the other. Oddly, the rose was centred within its link; the BR logo was centred within the available space in its link. It was also larger than the Metro rose, not the same size.

A similar thing happened when the PTE and National Bus Company created a joint Metro-National company and logo to create a joined-up, transparent network of services in West Yorkshire. Same logo as for rail but with the National Express “N-blem” in the second link.

Then in 1986 we had deregulation. The N-blem was replaced with an outline of the county, divided into districts with the name of each. This really worked at small sizes… But at least the rose was centred within the link – except when it wasn’t. And the order of the links was sometimes reversed, I’m assuming depending on whether it’s a PTE document or a PTA (Passenger Transport Authority – the politicians) one. I have a document that has both versions; one on the front cover, the other on the back.

The white-M-on-a-red-circle must have come as a blessed relief.

Lessons not learned

At that point I should have stopped. I really should have. But I started looking at the Leeds City Transport identity as well. Oh, Lordy.

First of all the logo is the city’s crest. Not going near that, thank you. The wordmark on stops and timetables has the letters LCT in a font that looks to be a variant of Clarendon. The bus stops have the same but slightly thicker (not ‘bold’ but more ‘heavy’ or ‘black’). And the buses say “Leeds City Transport” on the side in a font I don’t recognise and can’t pin down but which isn’t quite Avenir or Johnston. Same with the font on the bus stops, which aren’t quite anything.

When do the pubs open again?